Congratulations! You’re a new kitten owner. This is a wonderful and exciting time. However, it can also be a little overwhelming. There are many things to consider when caring for your new kitty, and this guide will help you get started on the right paw.
Food And Nutrition
Good nutrition is essential when caring for your new kitten and getting them off to a great start in life. If your kitten is a rescue that’s perhaps been separated from the mother too early, you will need a milk substitute known as “mother’s milk” or kitten milk replacer. This is available at most vets who will be able to advise.
If your kitten was weaned healthily from its mother, you could use good quality kitten food. The best kitten food will be high in protein and low in carbohydrates, which will help to keep your kitten healthy and strong as they grow.
Kittens should be fed high-quality kitten food at least thrice daily until they are six months old. After this, you can cut down to two meals per day, but make sure each meal is large enough for them to eat in just one sitting.
Wet kitten food is generally considered to be better for a kitten than dry kibble because it contains more nutrients for a growing cat, but more importantly, it includes a lot more moisture. Unlike dogs, cats don’t have a strong thirst reflex so wet food will provide a kitten’s extra liquid intake.
You may be tempted to feed your cat human food such as cooked chicken or tuna. This is fine, but only as an occasional treat. Human food lacks taurine, which is necessary for the health of your cat’s eyesight, muscle development and digestion.
Hydration Is Important For A New Kitten
The water bowl should be shallow and wide. Cat’s whiskers are highly sensitive, and generally don’t like stimulating them while eating or drinking. A wide bowl will allow your kitten to get its head in the bowl and lap up the water.
Cats like fresh water, so try to keep the bowl clean and replenished as much as possible, even if it still looks full and has not been used. You may consider getting a cat fountain that provides continuous water and is popular with some cats.
Remember, kittens always need access to fresh water because they’re growing fast. So be sure there are always fluids on hand.
Establish A Feeding Routine
There is a lot of debate between free-feeding a cat (leaving food out at all times) versus scheduled meal times, and the jury is still out on whether either method is better.
Free feeding is more convenient, but studies suggest that the risk of obesity and associated health problems is much greater.
If your kitten is going to be primarily an indoor cat and using less energy, then it’s best to adopt scheduled feeding and start this process when they are a kitten.
The next most important thing to consider is where to put their litter box. For best results, ensure the tray is large enough for them to turn around and feel comfortable in.
Like humans, cats are private animals and like to do their business in private. The box should also be placed in a quiet area that’s easy for your cat to access without anyone else seeing or hearing him. This will help keep them happy and stress-free.
Remember to scoop daily! Again like humans, your cat likes a nice clean and fresh bathroom and will be less likely to use a dirty litter box. Wash out the tray and refresh the litter every 5-7 days to prevent ongoing smells from building up.
When washing the litter tray, use a neutral-smelling detergent, as cats hate the smell of citrus and are less likely to use a box that has a lingering lemon or orange aroma.
Your new kitten will probably feel anxious and a little scared of its new environment. Making an effort with a nice secure bed will help your cat feel safe and secure.
You’ll first want to find a quiet place in your house where your kitten can relax. Try not to put it near loud noises like washers/dryers, refrigerators etc., as this will cause stress on the kitten if they hear these sounds while trying to sleep.
You can buy a new bed from the pet store or make one yourself from a cardboard box. Use an old blanket or towel, but only wash it occasionally, in the beginning, to allow the kitten to get used to its own scent.
As with any pet, toys are essential to your kitten’s life and development. Kittens love to play and will often do so for hours – sometimes even more than they sleep.
Toys provide exercise, which is especially important for young kittens who need extra energy burned off before they settle down for dinner or bedtime (the latter of which may not come until late at night).
Cats like games that involve chasing and pouncing on objects like feathers or stuffed mice, as these mimic natural hunting instincts found in all felines. Playing with your kitten provides entertainment for both parties and is a fantastic stress reliever for humans too.
Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, but you must teach your kitten where to scratch and where not to scratch. Scratching helps cats remove the old outer layer of their claws, which are constantly growing. It also allows them to communicate with other cats by leaving scents from glands in their paws.
If your cat doesn’t have access to a good scratching post or surface, it may resort to using your furniture – and this will not only ruin your furniture but also cause her harm if she gets stuck by a sharp edge while trying to claw away at it.
If you’re having trouble getting your kitten to use a scratching post, try placing it next to your cat’s bed or favourite sleeping spot – this will encourage it to start using it as cats like a stretch and a scratch when they first wake up.
Ensure it’s tall enough for them to extend their body when it scratches fully. Try placing some catnip on top of or inside the scratching post so that they associate good things with it.
New Kitten Health Care
Research and get recommendations for an excellent local vet who can provide a full range of services and expert advice.
The first thing to discuss with your vet is vaccinations. Most kittens will need their first set of shots at eight weeks old and then again at twelve weeks. After that, they’ll need booster shots every year or two until mid to late adulthood.
Following this, you will want to protect your cat from fleas and ticks. Again your vet will be able to advise on preventative treatments.
Finally, it is essential that you get your spayed or neutered, as the benefits far outweigh any risks involved. Untreated females will go into heat periodically and get very distressed. Males spray urine on walls and furniture, which is highly unpleasant for you and your family.
Neutered cats tend to have a longer life expectancy as they avoid various forms of cancer and heart complications. If an unspayed cat is allowed outside, it’s at greater risk from feline immunodeficiency virus infection and a road accident as it will trail further than other cats looking for a mate.
Whether you plan for your kitten to be an indoor cat or an indoor/outdoor cat, neutering is essential for your cat’s long-term health and well-being.
There are many things to consider when caring for your new kitten, and we hope this guide has served as a good starting point and the purrfect springboard into a life of happiness and health with your new best feline friend.