When you adopt or acquire a new kitten, you become responsible for an innocent life that fully relies on you for its utmost and thorough care, for the animals’ ENTIRE life, however long that may be. Use the guidelines below to make your kitten’s life a good one and so he/she will grow to be a happy and healthy cat.
- Introductions: Whether or not you have other pets in your home, introduce your new kitten(s) to your home or pets slowly. Keep the little tyke confined to one room if possible, for the first day. Make sure he/she has fresh, cool water and plenty of kitten food. Know what your kitten was eating before you acquired it, so you can match the diet, at least temporarily. If you will be switching foods, mix the old with the new over time until the kitten’s digestive system is accustomed to the new food. (generally, with kittens, you will feed 3 times a day up until 6 months of age and then down to twice a day). You can keep dry food down at all times as a snack and feed small amounts of canned food if you wish. This is recommended, as kittens have enough energy to burn fat fast and one or the other can cause a skinny kitten. Though, like any of us, each kitten’s metabolism varies, so keep an eye on your kitten’s weight. Introduce everything very slowly and be patient. Make sure you pet knows where the litter box, food and water is located at all times. And make sure your kitten has LOTS of love and attention. He/she will be very frightened in this new environment, especially is adopted alone. It is fine to carry your kitten around the house in your arms to see the sights, making sure other animals do not come into direct contact, not right away. Acclimate slowly using scent, as cats are very scent oriented. Give your new kitten a cozy fleece blanket or a soft towel to sleep on and get his/her scent all over. Do the same with your resident pet(s). Switch after a day or two. Get them used to one another’s scent. Please take your time. It will be worth it in the long run and could prevent bad experiences that might lead a lifetime of trouble. You can try feeding them near one another when you are ready, providing your resident pet is not food dominant!! A dog, particularly, might snap at a cat that is near its food. So, please use utmost caution. Even a small dog can cause a little kitten harm.
- Feeding. Kittens need higher proteins and fat than adult cats because they are growing. Feed a high quality kitten food (check labels, don’t pick cheap brands such as grocery store brands, as they might not meet your kitten’s needs). (IMPORTANT: When your kitten becomes an adult, about one year old, switch to a HIGH QUALITY food that is LOW MEGNESIUM. This is especially important with male cats, as they have small urethras and magnesium can cause crystals to form, blocking the urethra, which causes urine to back up into the animals’ system and poison them! This is deadly. FEED LOW MAGNESIUM). Petsmart makes a really good quality, low magnesium and inexpensive food called Authority. Check the Guaranteed Analysis of any food you wish to feed. If magnesium is listed, chances are good that food is LOW and a good food (it will show a level of 0.10 or less). Cheap, high magnesium foods do not list the magnesium levels on the label. If your cat begins going to the bathroom outside the box, BRING HIM/HER TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY!! Especially if it a male cat, but with females as well. This could be an indication of bladder stones or a urinary infection. NEVER assume it is behavioral. Avoiding the litter box is the cat’s way of telling you something is wrong!
- Routine. Cats love routine. Make sure you place the litter box(es) in an area away from high traffic but not too far away that it makes the kitten have to search for it. You might hear that you should have two litter boxes per cat. However, I have found that you can get away with one per every two cats as long as you keep the box VERY clean and there is at least one box on each floor of your house. If you live in a home with one floor, one box with 2 cats will suffice. Just remember, cats love clean litter and might not use the box if it gets too dirty.
- INDOORS. I stress this one vitally. Read the first chapter of my book “House Cat, How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Sane and Sound” ( www.christinechurch.net) for all the multitude of reasons cats should not go outside and can live a perfectly happy, not to mention longer, life INDOORS ONLY. There is a reason non-kill shelters do not adopt out to people who allow their cats to go outside. Again, read my book. With thirty years experience with indoor cats (and outdoor cats previously, as well as working with strays and ferals), I can honestly tell you, your cat will be far better indoors, as long as you provide the proper environment!
- Toys. Kittens are playful, there is no doubt. They will find pretty much anything and everything with which to play. Provide a scratching tree or large post (a small one or cardboard one is ok as a back up, but it is best not to use one as the sole scratching area). As your cat gets older, those claws can get destructive if you do not do something NOW, while kitten is young. DO NOT DECLAW!!!! I have seen some of the worst behavioral problems and even depression arise from removing a cat’s claws. This is NEVER the answer. All cats can be trained to keep their claws off the furniture. It’s up to YOU, not the kitten, to know what is right and wrong. Be patient and gentle and show Kitten the appropriate places. There are many great tips in my book, House Cat (www.christinechurch.net).
Be VERY careful what your kitten has access to in the house. Tuck away cords so they are not enticing. Anything a kitten can get in its mouth or paws becomes its property. Think! Look around. There’s no such thing as too much caution. Provide Kitten with a lot of toys that don’t have small pieces they can tear off and swallow. And NO string!
So, there you have the five biggest steps in caring for your new kitten and making sure he/she lives a quality life!