Springtime is kitten season and sometimes it is just downright impossible to pass by those cute furry faces without taking one home. If you’ve fallen victim to the charms of that little ball of fluff and have taken the big step into pet parenthood, don’t panic!
Tips for the first time kitten owner:
If you have not done it already, you need to ‘kitten-proof’ your home much like you do with a child. Walk through your home and eliminate hazards such as electrical cords, exposed outlets, items which a bounding kitten will knock over or spill, hazardous cleaning products or toxic plants, pesticides and hanging cords or string.
Schedule a visit with your veterinarian who will check for parasites, infections and other medical issues. Depending on your kitten’s age, vaccinations, de-worming and flea and tick preventative medications may be required.
Strongly consider getting two kittens, not just a single kitten, if you don’t already have a young cat in the house. Two kittens will self-train in litter box skills; they will help each other burn off energy; they will grow up better socialized; they will keep each other company when you’re out and will each have a friend for life. Plus if you adopt from a shelter, you will save not one life but two. And did we mention that having two kittens is insanely fun!
Do your research and purchase the best quality food you can afford. If you are going to be feeding any wet food, make sure you vary the type of canned food you feed to give your kitten as many different textures as possible. Cats are very sensitive to texture so varying the offerings early in life will help prevent finicky eating later on.
Cats are often not big water drinkers which can cause problems in the urinary tract later on, so encourage drinking by providing lots of fresh water for your kitten. A kitty water fountain is a great solution to keep the water moving and fresh the way cats like it. We’ve got tips on keeping cats hydrated here.
Buy a good sized litter box and a good quality litter. There are many types of litter; clay, silica, even recycled newspapers, so perhaps consult with a veterinarian or cat shelter to find the best one for you. Litter boxes should be placed away from noisy appliances and not in a high traffic area of the house, to avoid elimination accidents. Kittens should be taken to the litter box at first to feel the litter under their feet. Most kittens will gravitate naturally to the litter box. If you have a multi-level home, be sure to have a litter box on each floor until they’re older. Kittens have a tiny bladder and they’re bound to have an accident if they’re on the top floor and can’t make it to the litter box on the bottom floor in time.
Up to Scratch:
Save your furniture and invest in at least one scratching post. There are hundreds of different varieties to choose from, many with high up perches that cats love to view the world from. The taller the post, the better! For these energetic tykes, scratching posts with hanging items for them to play with will help to entice them to use it. Plus scratching is great exercise and a good way to reduce stress (avoid cat boredom).
A cozy cat bed will also be welcome. Sometimes even several beds so your kitty can choose whether she wants to have a lazy nap on the sunny windowsill or in front of the fireplace.
To keep your new family member entertained, invest in good kitten toys without small pieces that she can dislodge and ingest. Never leave toys with strings unattended. Kittens can easily ingest the string and, with the way that their tongues are designed, they can’t spit it out.
Introduce grooming habits early to encourage acceptance. A brush for grooming and a pet toothbrush and toothpaste are important tools to purchase, plus clippers for keeping claws trimmed. When you’re grooming kitty or when they’re relaxing on your lap, rub their paws with your fingers to get them used to you touching their paws. This will make trimming their claws much easier since they will be used to you holding their feet.
Routine, Routine, Routine:
Establish a routine for your kitten, both for feeding and playtime, and especially for bedtime. Cats can be quite nocturnal, so sticking to a routine early can save you some sleepless or at least restless nights when your kitten decides it’s playtime!
Socializing is vital for kittens so they enjoy human contact. Expose them not only to friendly adults, but gentle children who understand to handle them with care.
If there are other pets in the house, make sure they are introduced to your kitten slowly and gently.
Raising a kitten isn’t rocket science, but it does require a good dose of common sense. If you stumble along the way, there are many, many resources for you to get help, including local rescue groups. Enjoy your new kitten, keep them safe and they will be part of your family for many, many years to come!
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