Owning a kitten is a rewarding decision. Perhaps you've made the decision and have a lovable bundle of fur bouncing around your home or you are contemplating making an adoption and looking for information on how to be a responsible pet owner. In either case, rest assured that owning a kitten is a rewarding decision, much like raising a child, you are the main force in the development of something from its youngest and most formative years. It's important to remember, however, that it is a long-term commitment. Cats live at least ten years, many into their teens and some into their twenties. You are responsible for providing them with companionship, clean food and water, a bed; like changing a diaper, litter boxes must be emptied. Regular grooming is necessary, they should be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and regularly examined. You may want to research pet insurance to help offset some of these costs. But your kitten will grow into a loving and appreciative companion and you will find that all the work is worth it.
Your New Kitten’s Home
Introducing your kitten to its new home is the first step in ownership. You need to make them a safe space; some owners like to make them a sort of play-pen area. Set up a small, fenced in area in your home with food, water and a litter box, make your cat a small bed and consider adding a heating pad or hot water bottle beneath it at night to simulate the missing mother cat and siblings. This is also where you will want to have their toys. Though expensive toys are certainly fun, a cardboard box or paper bag can bring your kitten just as much enjoyment and you an equal number of laughs. This is the safe space that is for your kitten and when you introduce them to their new home this is area you will want to set them in first. While they are exploring you may want to double check that you have kitten-proofed your home. Kitten-proofing is similar to child-proofing. You will want to make sure that you have child locks on cupboards, a screen in front of the fire place, windows and doors should be shut tightly and locked. Plants should be moved out of reach. Poinsettia, lilly of the valley, rubber plants, and ivy are all examples of common household plants that will poison a kitten if eaten. You will also want to make sure that there is a scratching post available to help discourage scratching of furniture. Kittens love to climb so investing in a tall tree-like scratching center is a good idea.
New Kitten and the Family
Once your home is ready to accept this new addition you should begin the introduction process. It is important to oversee all introductions. Keep young children calm and quiet during first meetings and do not allow them to manhandle the kitten. The best way to handle child-kitten introductions is to sit on the floor with your child in your lap and allow the kitten to come to you. The kitten should be allowed to explore the child at their own pace and allowed to stop when they wish to stop. It is important that small children realize the kitten is not a toy. Make sure you return the kitten to its pen before introducing resident cats and dogs. This keeps the kitten safe, and gives all animals a chance to smell one another. Dogs should be kept on a leash and still; if your dog is naturally calm they may be able to meet the kitten in a carrier placed in a higher location. Do NOT leave a kitten in a home with older cats and dogs until it is well established in the home as a member of the family.
Feeding your kitten is the next area that you should focus on. When you first get your kitten home, you will want to feed them the same brand of food it is used to eating. This avoids problems from stomach upset such as diarrhea. If you decide you want to change food, carefully phase out the old food by mixing the new food and the old, gradually increasing the new food until the old food is gone. Trying to create a homemade food for your kitten that provides all the necessary nutrition is challenging. If you have questions or concerns about the right type of food, ask your Vet. They should be able to recommend a brand and may even carry it in their office. There are a number of special foods formulated to help kittens receive the necessary nutrition. Foods marked complete should have all the necessary nutrients. It is important that you read and follow feeding instructions carefully.
Litter Box Training
Litter box training is an important part of kitten healthy and owner sanity. It is a learned, not instinctual, behavior and one they generally pick up from there mother. Like a young child, however, they may need occasional reminders. If your kitten has an accident, or looks like they are about to go outside their box, gently lift them up and scrap their paws in the dirt. A litter tray should be plastic and filled with a litter your cat likes. Some owners like to place the box on paper or a mat to catch spill overs or little bits that catch on tiny kitten paws. Be sure to keep the litter box away from the food and water. Some owners may find their kitten is reluctant to use the litter box. This is not a cause for great concern. There are a number of reasons, with easy fixes, that a kitten may not want to use their box.
- The box may not be clean enough: Some breeds of cats are extra fussy. Trying cleaning it out every time they go and see if this helps.
- The box is not big enough: The litter box should be big enough for an adult cat to turn around in and use more than twice without getting dirty.
- You have cleaned the box and now it smells like chemicals: When you next clean the litter box, try using a different chemical or just soap and water.
- The box is too close to the food and water: Try moving it to the other side of the room or pen.
- The kitten doesn't like the texture of the litter: There are an unbelievable number of cat litters, just keep trying different ones until you find one your cat will use. Bear in mind as they grown their preferences may change as well.
Your New Kitten Outside
If you choose to let your cat go outside, be sure that they are at least four months old. You should accompany them on their first few trips to make sure they don't frighten and run away. If you find that your cat likes to go out to go potty, consider installing a cat door. There are magnetic doors that communicate with a controller on the collar of your cat that will prevent strays from wandering in but easily let your cat out. Collars with tags are necessary for all cats, even those kept indoors. Collars should be pet-safe and come apart if the cat gets stuck so they don't choke. Check the fit often; you should be able to fit two fingers easily between the collar and neck. Microchipping is also worth investigating. It involves a non-surgical procedure that places a microchip the size of a grain of rice under the skin of the cat. If they are ever lost and picked up by a rescue or shelter the chip will be scanned and you will be contacted and your pet returned.
New Kitten Health and Upkeep
The health and upkeep of your kitten are some of the most important things to keep in mind when considering or after making an adoption. Kittens should be groomed from a young age, especially those with long hair. Daily or weekly brushings should be a fun and enjoyable experience ending in a treat that makes them ready for the next time the hair brush comes out. Certain breeds have grooming considerations and these should be kept in mind when making a decision on what type of kitten you want. Regular health check up and vaccinations are also important. Your kitten must be vaccinated against Feline Distemper, FVR (feline viral rhinotracheitis), Feline Calicivirus, and Rabies. It is strongly recommended that they be vaccinated against FeLV (feline leukemia) and Bordetella. Their first kitten shots should be a combination vaccine with Feline Distemper, FVR, and Calicivirus at 6-7 weeks. They should receive a booster at 10 weeks, Rabies at 12 weeks, another combination booster at 13 weeks as well as an FeLV vaccine, and boosters again at 16 and 19 weeks. The AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) recommends cats now be vaccinated every three years depending on potential exposure. Check with your vet to see what is right for your kitten.
Their first exam should be no later than 10 weeks and should include a complete exam, ear mite check, de-worming, tests for infectious disease, and vaccines. Be aware that de-worming can make a kitten weak. They should be both round and tape de-wormed. The best way to prevent worms is to control fleas. Collars and baths are not the best way to control fleas. Your vet should have information on the best flea prevention products. Do not forget to check with your vet about when the perform spays and neuters. Early spaying and neutering is best both for you and your cat. It prevents health conditions and can help you avoid nasty habits such as 'spraying'.
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