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Q: We just got our first kitten three days ago. She seems perfectly healthy, but she has developed a black crust at the corners of her eyes and nostrils. Is she all right or should we have her examined?

A: It's always a good idea to have a new kitten examined. Your veterinarian can make sure she's healthy and help you anticipate her needs. That being said, the black debris that you're describing is common among kittens and is normal.

Your kitten is learning about her new home. Cats have an amazing sense of smell with five to 10 times the number of smell-detecting cells than a human being. The bulk of a cat's social cues are based on scent. Consequently, your kitten is driven to learn about her environment by smelling everything.

The black debris that you're seeing is simply the dust that has been sniffed into her nose and has gotten into her eyes. Her body's protective tears and mucous have washed the debris into the corners of her eyes and nose.

You can make her more comfortable by gently removing the crust with a damp, soft cloth. You'll find that the dusty discharge will resolve when your kitten has finished her exploration of your home.

Prepared as a public service by the Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society. Send questions to Pets, P.O. Box 1252, Buffalo, N.Y. 14205 or to the Web site at Sorry, personal replies cannot be provided.

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