Kitten Care

Getting a new kitten as a pet is an exciting time for us humans, but the experience of a brand new home is bound to be daunting for a tiny animal. Every kitten has a unique personality – some are shy, others are confident. Whatever its character, leaving its mother and siblings for the first time can be a traumatic transition. It is the first important job of any responsible pet owner to make sure your new kitten settles in happily.

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PREPARING A KITTEN ROOM

The best way to prepare for a new cat and to make your kitten feel at home is to understand the needs of our feline friends. Use the knowledge to create a suitable environment and build an instant bond with your new pet.

First, choose a room where your kitten can be safely kept for the first few weeks to adjust gradually to its new surroundings. This confinement also aids toilet training and avoids the risk of ‘accidents’ elsewhere in the house.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you get the room ready:

  1. Choose a quiet room, perhaps a bedroom, study or utility room where there is little traffic. Alternatively, get a large kitten pen or pet crate where your kitten can spend its first few days, gradually moving it towards the centre of activity in the home.
  2. In your kitten’s room, keep windows securely fastened and check that the door can be safely closed, so your cat cannot escape.
  3. Remove all breakable objects from shelves and windowsills and secure all cupboard doors. Kittens can squeeze into some unbelievably small spaces.
  4. Secure the room against potential hazards such as fireplaces, poisonous plants or household chemicals.
  5. Avoid a room with full-length curtains as the temptation to run up them and perch at the top may be too great.
  6. Place a cardboard box on its side, with a fleece blanket inside, to act as a hiding place for a shy or insecure kitten.
  7. Place a litter tray in one corner, with food and water bowls in the opposite corner of the room.
  8. Position a padded, washable cat bed in a quiet area away from food bowls and litter tray, and add a soft fleece blanket.
  9. Place a kitten scratch post nearby, and remember to replace this with a taller one as your cat grows.
  10. Leave out some safe toys (no strings attached) for playtime and sensory exploration.

 

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THE FIRST FEW DAYS

Bringing your new kitten home for the first time is exciting for all concerned. The first 24 hours should be a calm period of adjustment so it’s best for any children in the household to understand that the new pet should not be disturbed.

Here are some guidelines on how to introduce your new kitten to its new home:

  • It is a good idea to bring the kitten home with some bedding. This will act as a familiar object when everything else is new. Place this inside the cat bed or cardboard box to help your kitten feel at home.
  • Once home, gently place the cat carrier on the floor and open the door to allow the kitten to emerge and explore in its own time. There will be so many new sights, sounds, smells and textures to process, so be patient and allow a period of investigation.
  • Offer food, water and the freshly prepared litter tray. Once your pet has investigated and found them all, it’s safe to leave the room for a while. Don’t worry if little interest is shown in food at this stage.
  • Kittens have tiny stomachs, so offering 4-6 small meals at regular intervals throughout the day to start with should avoid any potential stomach upsets and bouts of diarrhoea from occurring.
  • It may be helpful to keep to the same litter material that the kitten was used to in its previous home, making any changes very gradually once the newcomer is completely settled.
  • Kittens need their sleep when they are young, even more so than adult cats. In between catnaps, they exhibit energetic bursts of activity. Kittens love to climb, so be prepared to come to the rescue in case it gets stuck.

GETTING TO KNOW YOUR KITTEN

Getting to know your new kitten is a really important process to enable an affectionate bond between human and feline to be established. Any interaction should take place when your cat feels naturally active and appears responsive.

Here are some useful tips to help you bond with your new pet:

Introducing children

Allow family members to visit individually rather than crowding into the room all at once. If you are introducing young children to a new cat or kitten, allow them limited supervised contact initially to avoid the animal being overhandled. During the first few days any handling should take place when the kitten initiates it. After 48 hours, handle the kitten for short periods of time rather than providing continuous physical contact.

Introducing other pets

Don’t rush to introduce your new kitten to your resident cat or dog in the home. Meeting the other family pets too quickly can lead to any of the animals concerned to feel threatened and scared, and once negative behaviour has become established it can be hard to change. A slow and careful introduction should prevent this from happening and lead to a calm and peaceful co-existence all round.

Bedtime routine

It’s important from day one to set the right routines. Many owners feel that kittens need to be close to them at night, but this can set an undesirable precedent for nocturnal games and no sleep for you! Cats are naturally active at dawn and dusk but your kitten can soon learn to adjust its sleeping pattern to fit in with your lifestyle. There’s nothing cruel about putting your kitten to bed in a cosy, warm and secure environment in its own room or crate until the morning.

Feeding your kitten

Start by feeding your kitten the same food it has been used to, then change its diet gradually if you wish, to avoid any tummy upsets. Choose specially formulated kitten food to provide optimal nutrition. Kittens aged 8-12 weeks need 4 meals a day, 3-6 months 3 meals, and kittens over 6 months are fine with 2 meals a day. Don’t give your cat cow’s milk as this can cause diarrhoea. Fresh drinking water should always be available.

Toilet training

Cats are very fussy about their toilet habits and kittens will usually have learnt to use a litter tray by copying their mother. You may just need to show your new pet where the litter tray is and place it on the tray after naptimes and mealtimes or when it is showing signs of needing to go. Make sure the litter tray is in a quiet, accessible corner away from food and water bowls. Click here for information on how to choose and use a litter tray.

Playtime and entertainment

Kittens are very playful. Give them toys to keep them occupied and exercised and make a point of playing with your pet. However, no matter how cute a kitten may look, it should never be woken for affection or playtime, or coaxed out of a hiding place. Neither should you persevere if the animal seems disinterested or anxious. If you want to appeal to your new kitten, get down on the floor at kitten level!

Going outside

Letting your kitten outside for the first time is a lot easier if your pet has good recall and if you have had it microchipped. Because of potential infection from diseases such as cat flu and enteritis, your kitten should not go outside until a week after its first course of vaccinations at about 13-14 weeks old. Free access outside should ideally be delayed until it has been neutered (at around 5-6 months old).

Grooming your kitten

It is a good idea to accustom your kitten to being groomed from an early age, particularly if it has a long-haired coat. Grooming your cat removes loose hairs that can cause furballs to build up in the stomach, and gives you a chance to check over your cat’s fur and general state of health. Most cats like being groomed; make sure it’s a regular, rewarding and pleasant experience for you both.

Cat health

Your new kitten will need a health check-up shortly after arrival. This will give the vet the opportunity to administer any vaccinations that may be due and advise on flea treatment, worming control, neutering, microchip identification and other general care for keeping your cat in good health.

Useful links  ›››

Useful Videos

Bringing your cat to the vets

Symptom checker

Pet Poisons Helpsite

Insurance Advice

Pet Care Plan/Discount Scheme

 

 

 

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