So you’ve added a new, purring furball to your family! How wonderful! Kittens come wrapped in cuteness and packed with enough energy to run a freight train. (Adopting a pair of kittens isn’t such a bad idea, as cats are social animals and having one of their own as a companion will give them companionship with when you’re out of the house at work.) But how exactly do you build a home life that is easy for you and your cat(s)? Here are some useful tips to know when raising felines.
Age is More Than A Number
Kittens should not be adopted by human families until after eight weeks of age. Prior to this, their mother and siblings provide them with the warmth and nutrition they need to start growing. Kittens, in their first eight weeks of life, cannot regulate their own body temperature, so they rely on their mother’s milk and the warmth of their brood. Ideally, a kitten should be weaned (around eight weeks or so) before leaving the feline family. Cases of orphaned felines babies force humans to step up and take on some of the roles a mother cat plays in order for the animal to survive. Remember, kittens are not cats yet and operate with a unique set of needs just like human infants.
Hit the Stores! (Pet Supply Stores, That Is)
Pre-planning is required for kittens to live comfortably in a new home. Make sure you have kitten food, food and water dishes, a warm bed, a litter box, and extra litter—plus a cat carrier for vet trips and rides in the car. A scratching post will help direct those small, razor sharp claws to a logical spot, too. Toys designed for curious kittens will also help keep the mini-cat constructively occupied. Additionally, new pet parents might want a collar and ID tags, leash, cat brush, toothpaste, and toothbrush. Exposure to these items and routines will allow for a more peaceful transition to adulthood.
Get the Litter Out
In most cases, kittens will take to a litter box like a fish to water. Cats are naturally clean animals. A new pet parent can improve the odds of getting the new pet to use the box by keeping the animal in a small, closed-off room with a litter box, a cozy bed, food, and water at first. Adding a blanket or towel that has been scented with the mother and siblings’ smell to the bedding will also help put the new baby at ease. You can place a kitten in the litter pan after playtime or when they finish eating to increase the acceptance process. Regular cleaning of a litter box can also encourage repeated and responsible use.
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Line up your kitten’s first vet visit as soon as you can. A veterinarian can check for potential problems and pre-existing conditions that could jeopardize the pet’s future health. On the vet’s to-do list should be checks for ear mites, fleas, and worms. Other possible procedures during the visit are medication to remove external parasites (such as fleas), a fecal exam, and discussion with you about heartworm prevention.
The vet will run a blood test for feline leukemia early in the visits but probably will not vaccinate for it until 12 weeks. However, many vaccinations should begin at about eight weeks for rhinotracheitis, calcivirus, panleukopenia, and chlamydia with boosters scheduled for 12 and 16 weeks. For kittens that did not test positive feline leukemia, the first vaccination should be provided, followed by a booster later.
Depending on the geographical region a cat resides in, the vet may also suggest vaccinations for distemper and possible other. Another consideration for most pet parents is spaying or neutering at about six months for kittens. This helps control the domestic cat population and makes for more content, mature animals in the long run.
Kitten Chow Time
Kittens need three times as many calories and nutrients as adult cats. Find a high-quality, brand name food designed especially for kitten nutrition and development. The best bet is to check the package for a food analysis from the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on its label. Your vet may be able to suggest a proven feed during your first visit. Pet parents should set up a feeding schedule, too. Kitten food should still be supplied up to a year old. Feline babies still need more energy to grow. If the young cat shares the home with other adult cats, feed he/she separately so grown felines and dogs don’t polish off this high calorie meal.
Extra Furry Bodies in the Home
Speaking of adult cats and dogs, introducing a new kitten to the established household animals can be tricky, depending on each animal’s temperament. The best advice is to keep the tiny feline separate for a while and slowly allow the pets to mingle under close supervision. Initial encounters should be brief. These can be expanded as the animals get to know each other. Hissing and spitting might happen from any of the feline members. Kittens may need to posture some aggression for a large family dog, no matter how friendly or laidback the canine is. Likewise, older cats may feel a need to let the new kid on the block know who runs the place. With some patience, reassurance, and extra hands-on attention for all parties involved, most animals can establish their own loving places in the home.
Let the Good Times Roll
Cats of all ages require social attention, interaction, and affection. That is great for pet parents, who should lots of time daily holding, petting, playing, and engaging these young animals. Kittens need to be exposed to all sorts of situations early on so they grow up to be well-adapted adults. Accomplishing this means showing kittens all kinds of situations and people. Bring cat-friendly human buddies over to hang out with your fur baby. Take the animal for car rides inside a cage to places other than the vet’s office. Play music. Vacuum. Clean and perform your normal household activities and carry the kitten with you. Supervise young children’s interaction with the small fur ball so everyone is safe. Get the established animal residents to spend some controlled time with the kitten, too. In short, try to expose this young feline to everything you can so he/she is well adjusted, loving, and secure as an adult.
All too quickly, a playful kitten will transition from zipping through the house at breakneck speed to a more quiet, comfortable adulthood existence curled up in a recliner or on a lap. Take advantage of a kitten’s youth when you can. Savor the moment!