You've certainly jumped right into the deep end if this is your first kitten! XD I've broken your post up into chunks so I can properly answer your questions. (and I wrote a novel...lol)
Thank you for saying this. Too many people are telling me that I need to get her vaccinated. I've been doing a TON of research driving my self mad the past 2 days on vaccinations. I'm leaning towards Only rabbies, but people keep telling me distemper is NEEDED.
Since you found her outside the first thing you need to do is go to a vet and have them run tests to see if she's positive for the diseases that are common in your area. If she's positive for a serious illness then you need to handle that before you can start worrying about the rest of it.
Secondly, if she does clear all the tests I'd ask the vet how old she is. One common practice for people who are more wary of vaccines is to delay the vaccines, or to give them individually rather than in a booster.
The most common booster shot combines 3, 5, or even 7 common diseases. Ask your vet what they typically give, at what age, and why. Also ask them (or call a local rescue) and ask what diseases are prevalent in your area. If you're uncomfortable with vaccines then an easy step to take is to only vaccinate against the worst and most common diseases.
When I was decided what to do with my kittens (8 years ago!!!) I spoke with 3 vets, read articles from online medical journals (I work at a library, so we have pretty good access to full text articles, and I know how to make sure an article is worthwhile and reputable), and also read information by vets who recommend a lower vaccination schedule. (Google Dr. Jean Dodds) and their reasons for recommending or not recommending each individual vaccine. then I considered my lifestyle and plans for my pets future. I knew I was going to keep my cats indoors (low risk), however I pet sit and wanted to foster (high risk), so I chose to vaccinate fully for the first year and then see how it went after that.
Much of the actual backed research suggested that vaccines are good for 5-7 years minimum, so much of the fuss about vaccinating stems from over vaccinating recommended by most vets who follow a 1 year protocol. I felt that by vaccinating for the first year only I could provide 1) the best immunity against the diseases, 2) the lowest risk against infections, 3) the best long term outcomes.
So far it's worked out well for me, but a sample size of 4 cats is useless. (more on this below)
I'm just worried it will mess up her natural immune system.
Serious adverse reactions are extremely uncommon. Most cats will be a bit grumpy the day of, might not eat that night (this is easily attributable to the stress of a vet visit, rather than the shot though!), but are back to themselves the next morning. Some will seem irritable for a day or two, then be fine. In rarer cases they may get a low fever, vomit, or seem disoriented or dizzy. This should be reported to a vet, and should have an effect on how you go forward with vaccines in the future (as a cat who has had one reaction is more likely to have another, and more likely to have a worse one later on, although it's not a guarantee.).
There is no solid scientific evidence right now that shows vaccines cause any issues with the immune system. There is anecdotal evidence, but as much of this is presented by people who were already biased (and is anecdotal, not scientific) it isn't a solid basis. However, it still makes many people uncomfortable or wary of vaccines. IMO it's not bad to hedge your bets, but it is important to make an informed decision based on your individual risk factors.
I'm planning on calling a holistic vet near me to ask questions about it. I've read stories of people getting the distemper and their kitten died right their on the table, I've also read stories of people only getting rabies shots, and with the cats that only had rabies shots out of many they have owned those cats were the healthiest,
These things do happen, but so do the pets who get vaccines every year and live happily into old age. Neither example outweighs the other, but a kitten dramatically passing after getting vaccines is much more dramatic and traumatic - so it FEELS like more of a risk.
I foster kittens, which means I've helped vaccinate many and carefully watched for adverse reactions. I have personally cared for 47 cats when they've gotten their first set of shots, most when they were between 8-12 weeks old (40 kittens).
- 4 cats have had a bruised limb: caused by the roughness of the vet, NOT the actual shot as this was all administered at the same time by the same vet and the cats have each never shown that reaction since
- about half the total were sleepier or reserved the day of and fine the next day (including lowered appetite for a single meal)
- 1 adverse reaction: Jitzu was already ill at the time of vaccination, and the stress of the vet visit combined with the vaccine caused a flare up where we nearly lost her. Jitzu no longer receives vaccinations on the advice of the vet because her illness is chronic and stress is a known trigger.
Working with the rescue I can also assure you that in the 2 years I've been fostering for them (over 100 cats, easily, per year) they haven't lost a cat or kitten to a vaccine reaction.
I'm npot sure if this person is one to feed raw but if I could guess she is based on how into nutrition she is for her whole family. I just don't know what to do.
I remember what it was like to be so overwhelmed with information, but not have any experiences to base my own personal decisions on. It's stressful!
So, step one is to take a big deep breathe and cuddle that baby! Now, remember that if you'd left her on the street her chances were terrible, so anything you do at this point is still a HUGE improvement. Also, give yourself permission to make mistakes - if you try something and it doesn't work there was no way for you to know the outcome and you did it with the very best intentions. That doesn't mean bad things will never happen, but if you let yourself be frozen by 'what if's you can't ever move forward. *hugs*
I also have another thing I'm worried about. If I am going to get her kitten vaccines, how late is too late? a year? two years?
I'd suggest getting them starting at either 8 or 12 weeks. The rabies vaccine may be age-mandated where you live, it's very common for it to be given at 6 months and again at 1 year. I'd suggest giving it by itself, as the rabies vaccine tends to be one that causes more adverse reactions. (That doesn't mean don't get it, as the consequences of an unvaccinated cat that bites the wrong person are definite and awful in many places. Look up the law where you live.)
I don't plan on getting her fixed until she is at least a year old two if I can, because I want her body to grow the way it's meant to and not alter it before it full grown.
This is a different story. Take it from someone who has been there, unaltered females are the WORST. The door dash, pee all over things, and HOWL day and night for weeks. It isn't 'kinder' to keep her intact, it's cruel to keep her intact with no intention of allowing her to breed. There is no reason to worry about this.
The studies you've probably seen were mostly done 1) on dogs, 2) the findings were much stronger in dogs over 100lbs at maturity, and 3) by people who didn't have to live with the queen in heat.
She will finish growing just fine without her ovaries and uterus. If you feed her well and make sure to keep her playful and fit she won't magically gain tons of weight. Cats are slam enough that the tiny amount of increased cancer risk does not offset the bone growth issues.
Pyometria (infection of the uterus) is also a risk if you leave her intact - and it sucks. I was flat broke when Torri became big enough to get spayed (due to other vet bills draining the pet fund) so I waited and she got pyo. It was terrible and affected her personality and socialization in a crucial period, she's MUCH more skittish and anxious that she was before getting pyo and would likely have been a completely different cat if I'd been able to spay her on time. Also, Every heat a female cat goes through before being spayed increases her lifetime risk of mammary cancer.
They also door dash. Relentlessly. And call suitors (aka unaltered males who will coat the outside of your home is reeking urine. Blech. So glad I got my girls fixed!).
The only reason to keep her intact would be to breed her, since she's a (lovely) street kitty that's right out.
I'm thinking she's not as young as I thought because she seems to handle the solids ok as far as I could tell, maybe she's just the runt or is extra little? She cries when I leave, or if she's left alone for too long (which to her is only a couple minutes) is that a sign of her being young? I'm just unsure, she's my first kitten.
I've written quite enough for now (ack, typing fingers are tired...lol), but this all sounds like you're on the right track. She's crying because her instincts are telling her to be near 'mum', and she's in a completely new place. It's normal and she'll get over it soon, but don't feel bad about going ot her and comforting her, or toting her around everywhere. I wore Doran in a sling whenever possible until he was old enough to climb stairs and follow me around - you won't be spoiling her, kittens NEED comfort and affection to thrive. *hugs*