How to care for your new kitten
Kittens are adorable and it is tempting to take one home without thinking of the consequences. Remember, kittens can be demanding and taking one on means you are committing to lifelong care for perhaps twenty years or more.
The following new kitten advice will help you to give your new kitty the best start in its new home with you.
Bringing the kitten home
Moving to a new home is stressful for a kitten. Give reassurance and time to adjust to new surroundings before making introductions to other pets or people in the household. Ensure all doors and windows are closed and there is a guard in front of the fireplace. Ensure the kitten knows where his/her bed, litter tray and food bowls are.
The kitten’s bed should be a safe place to go when things get too much. It needs to be warm, dry, comfortable and draught-free. Buy a bed from a pet shop, or use a strong, dry, cardboard box with a hole cut in the side. It should contain soft bedding, and be placed in a warm, safe place.
On the first few nights a warm water bottle (not hot) under a blanket may help compensate for the absence of the kitten’s mother or litter-mates. If you happen to have, or can borrow, a large secure pen, this is ideal for providing a safe den and can hold the kitten’s litter tray and bed. It is also an excellent way to introduce other pets.
Introducing other pets and children
Introduction to the other household residents should be gradual, gentle and quiet. Children must be taught that the newcomer is not a toy, and they should not pick up the kitten but sit on the floor and wait for the kitten to come to them.
Playing stops when the kitten chooses and the pet should be allowed to go back to bed undisturbed. The children should be aware that the kitten may scratch and play-bite.
Introducing a kitten to a dog or cat needs to be done carefully. An ideal way is to have a large mesh pen in which the kitten can sit safely while the cat or dog becomes accustomed to the new presence.
Socialisation is important for your cat to live confidently and safely in your household. The optimum time for kitten socialisation is between two and seven weeks so, before choosing your cat, find out what experiences your kitten has had in early life.
A kitten raised in a home or adoption centre where staff are aware of the importance of socialisation should cope well with the move to a new family. However, litters born and raised outdoors, and kittens from feral litters, may not have enough experience of humans to adapt fully to a family.
Find out what your kitten has been eating and when you first get home feed the same foods. A sudden change of diet combined with the stress of adapting to a new home can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea. If you want to change the diet, do so over a few days by mixing the new food with the kitten’s usual diet. Kittens have small stomachs and have to be fed little and often. The easiest way to provide a growing kitten with a balanced diet is to feed a premium complete growth diet such as Hills Vet Essentials. These are usually dry, but some companies produce tinned varieties too.
These foods have been specially formulated for kittens, which have different nutritional needs to a fully-grown cat. Read and follow all feeding instructions carefully.
Tips for toilet training
Cats are fussy about toilet habits and kittens usually learn to use a litter tray by copying their mother. To toilet train your cat, you may just need to show where the litter tray is and place the kitten on the tray after meals, waking from a sleep, or when sniffing, scratching or beginning to crouch and generally looking as if they are about to go!
If your kitten is inclined to mess elsewhere in the house, confine them to one room with a litter tray until he/she learns to use it regularly. Cat toilet training can take time, but perseverance is key.
Toys and play
Play is an essential part of your kitten’s life and will encourage a bond between you, as well as helping keep your kitten fit and healthy.
Many different types of cat toys are available but most kittens will play with anything that is light and small. Toys filled with catnip hold a special attraction for many. A scratching-post inside the house is helpful in protecting your furniture, even if your kitten is able to go outside.
All kittens should be groomed regularly. This keeps their fur and skin in good condition, allows you to check for any signs of ill health, and helps build the relationship between you.
Long-haired cats need to be groomed thoroughly every day to remove all tangles, otherwise they quickly become matted.
Vaccination is vital throughout your cat’s life. Within a few weeks of being born, your kitten will start to lose the natural resistance to disease that it gained from its mother’s milk.
Sooner or later, it’s almost certain to be exposed to infection of one kind or another through grooming, sharing litter trays or feeding bowls, fighting or numerous other ways that are an everyday part of a cat’s life.
With pet vaccination, you can take the essential first steps in dramatically reducing the risk of your cat becoming seriously ill or even dying from disease. With a regular annual booster you can give the lifelong protection your cat needs and deserves.
White Cross Vets offers annual vaccinations for life.
Worming is recommended at 2, 5 and 8 weeks of age and monthly thereafter until your kitten is 6 months old. The vet or nurse will be able to advise you on the best product to use.
Prevention is better than cure where fleas are concerned so consult your vet about routine treatment to keep your cat healthy and free from fleas. Many owners find spot on products easier and less stressful to administer than sprays.
Shampoos for the treatment of fleas are not effective and should be avoided unless prescribed by your vet. If your kitten has fleas, you will also need to treat your home to remove flea eggs, thus preventing new fleas hatching. The kitten’s bedding should be thoroughly washed or replaced and the floors and carpets of the house should also be treated. Your vet can provide a spray for use around the house.
Spaying and neutering kittens
Each year many unwanted cats and kittens are abandoned or euthanased because there are not enough homes to go around. Neutering your cat ensures that you do not contribute to this problem.
When to neuter a kitten?
A male cat can be castrated at around five months of age. Male kitten neutering will also reduce the likelihood that he will spray indoors to mark his territory. He will also spend less time roaming in search of mates and thus has less likelihood of getting into fights or being hit by a car.
Cats bitten and scratched in fights are more likely to be at risk from infectious diseases.
When can kittens be spayed?
A female kitten needs to be spayed to prevent unwanted litters. Female kitten spaying can be done from five to six months of age and there is no need for the cat to have had a litter beforehand.
Spaying kittens has no harmful effects. It also eliminates the stress brought on by calling (this is the loud mewing which female cats make to attract a mate), pregnancy, birth, and the care and rehoming of kittens.
Your kitten should not be allowed outside until at least a week after finishing the first course of vaccinations (at 13 to 14 weeks old, depending on the vaccine). Choose a dry day (if possible) and a quiet time and accompany your kitten outside, allowing your pet to explore their new environment.
Continue to accompany your kitten until they are used to your garden and can find their way back to the house without difficulty. Do not leave your kitten alone outside until after neutering at about five or six months old.
Cats like to come and go as they please, and a cat flap allows them to do this. You can teach your kitten to use a cat flap by propping it open initially and enticing your kitten through with food. Gradually close it so that the kitten learns to push the flap. If you already own a cat that is using the flap, be aware that the kitten may watch and learn to let itself out before you are ready. Kittens learn quickly by watching other cats.
Identification and cat microchipping
It is wise to have your kitten microchipped for identification purposes. A cat microchip is a permanent form of identification (about the size of a grain of rice), which is injected under the skin between the shoulder blades. The chip carries a barcode, read by a scanner. The code number is registered along with your details on a national database so, if your kitten gets lost, you can be re-united quickly.
Kittens are inquisitive and will investigate any small, dark places they can crawl into. Should your kitten go missing for any length of time, you should look in cupboards, wardrobes, outdoor sheds etc in case your kitten has accidentally been shut in or got stuck. Keep the washing machine and tumble dryer door closed when not in use and check them before putting any clothes in.
If you later move house, don’t forget to add ‘changing cat microchip details’ to your to do list so your cat can be traced to your new address.
Pet cat insurance
Just knowing that your kitten is insured can be a great comfort to owners and ensure you don’t find yourself facing a hefty bill if your kitten is injured or needs treatment.
White Cross Vets Complete Wellness Plan
Our Complete Wellness Plan takes care of everything you need to give your kitten the best start in life including vaccinations, a microchip, flea and wormer, and a significant discount off the cost of neutering and a quality Hills Diet.
Contact us for more information on how to look after a kitten or to book in a kitten health check and vaccinations.