How to Take Care of a Kitten: Pet Parents' Best Tips
If you've recently decided to become a cat owner, you likely have more than a few questions about the care that is needed by your new feline family member. Let's look at how to take care of a kitten with some tips to make the transition to pet parent a little simpler and a whole lot more fun.
It's important to prepare your home and family for your new arrival. This includes going room to room and looking for things that might cause your kitten harm. Bundle any electric cords and put them out of her reach, and remove insect or pest traps and poisonous plants.
As soon as possible, get to know your kitten and give her the opportunity to get to know you. If your kitten is not yet ready for pickup, arrange to visit the shelter or foster pet parent's home to play with your kitten and help ease her natural fears as she learns the ropes of her world. If your kitten's mother is present, your kitten will likely react more readily to you, since the mother's presence reassures her that she's going to be okay.
In some studies, kittens who have no human contact in the first few weeks of life hiss at their human counterparts because they're afraid of them. Kittens will not do this if they receive some human touch daily — and studies have also shown that handling kittens every day during their formative first month can enhance their ability to learn. Additional research shows that handling young kittens early in their lives heightens their development. Researchers looked at Siamese kittens that were handled for just 20 minutes daily for their first month; the kittens opened their eyes sooner and crept out of their nesting box earlier in life than their littermates who received no human contact.
Keep up the gentle human contact with your little furball once she arrives home. Be sure to supervise her handling by small children who may be a little too rough for kitty's liking, and learn more about socializing her with other pets.
If you've selected a shelter kitten, then her veterinarian needs may have already been seen to. However, you should continue regular visits with her vet. She'll need vaccines to prevent her from developing lethal conditions and diseases, and she may get sick from time to time from viruses that come into the home or from the local pet population if she's allowed to spend time outside. Discuss spaying or neutering with your vet as early as eight weeks of age to prevent overpopulation and other issues.
Some of your best memories with your cat will involve playtime. Select a few toys to help stimulate her senses and curiosity during play. Kittens are better socialized when they're played with, and they will learn to trust and be less fearful of humans through engaging in play. Teach children how to play with her properly so that playtime is fun for all.
Kittens grow rapidly and have high energy needs. In fact, most kittens experience a huge increase from their birth weight by the time they reach 20 weeks of age, with weight gain levelling off at roughly 26 weeks. Because of this, they need kitten food with specialized nutrition such as Purina Kitten Chow or Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula during the first year of their lives. Kitten food provides your fur baby with the extra nutrients she needs for normal healthy growth. Browse all of Purina’s kitten food here to find a food that will help your new family member thrive.
Chances are good that your kitten will already be trained to use a litter box if you adopt her from a shelter. If not, don't panic; there's still time to do it yourself. Position her litter box in a secluded part of the home, and place her in it right after meals or long naps. She should also be placed in the box when she first arises in the morning. Stay consistent.
Keeping your kitten's litter box clean is paramount to successful house-training. Keep in mind that most cats will fail to do their business if the litter is soiled. Change the litter often, and wash the litter pan before refilling.
Just like us, cats get lonely, and this is especially true of single kittens who are accustomed to having one to eight or more littermates to pal around with. If you are gone much of the day, consider adopting a pair of kittens to keep each other company. If a duo of kittens is out of the question, then experts suggest wrapping a ticking clock in a towel and placing it near kitty's bed. The sound is reminiscent of the mother cat's heartbeat, which kittens find soothing. You can also leave the radio or TV playing, and be sure to leave toys, water and food to help ease the loneliness until you get back.
Grooming your cat in an established grooming regimen keeps her looking her best and staves off any problems with her coat on down the line. This is particularly important for longhair cats that require daily grooming. If your kitten is of the shorthair variety, then grooming once or twice weekly will suffice. Find the appropriate grooming accessories for your kitty at your local supermarket or big-box retailer. When introducing a new tool for grooming your kitten, show her the tool first and then gently stroke her body with it to show her that it won’t harm her. When possible, choose a time for grooming when your cat is relaxed so that she will get the most out of her pampering session.
While grooming your kitten, keep an eye out for signs of parasites like ticks or fleas or for disorders of the skin like ringworm. Look for skin lesions and lumps, and report any problem to your vet right away.
It takes effort to learn how to take care of a kitten. Combine the above tips with a whole lot of love and TLC and you and she will do just fine. If you're preparing to welcome a new kitten into your home, read about how to make your kitten feel at home.