Congratulations on adopting your new kitten! Here are some tips from CAP to help you keep your kitten happy, healthy, and growing.You will need supplies, like food, dishes, and a litter box. Bringing a new pet into the home, particularly if you have other pets, requires a period of acclimitization. Kittens are inquisitive and may eat hazardous objects - make sure to kitten proof your home so your new friend stays safe. Consider keeping your kitten indoors - indoor cats live twice as long as their outdoor counterparts. Just like other family members, your kitten will need yearly health checkups so a good veternarian is a must. Believe it or not, you can train your cat! And last but not least, play with your kitten. Particularly with indoor cats, play and exercise will keep them fit and happy (the cat dancer is a sure-fire hit).
Most kittens (and cats) benefit greatly from another kitten or cat as a companion. If you have the financial resources to adopt two, they will make great play pals and keep each other company when the human family members are not at home. Welcome to the community of feline friends!
- Litter box - keep in mind your kitten will grow so get a large one.
- Litter box scooper
- Litter box liners - only needed if you do not want to have to wash out the litter pan every week
- Litter - do NOT use clumping litter for kittens as it can be dangerous. If your kitten is not using the litter box but going elsewhere, it 'may' be the litter so try another brand
- Food - only feed high quality 'kitten' food
- Food dishes - always get separate water and food bowls which are Not attached to each other
- Scratching posts - at least two, placed in the rooms that the cat frequents most
- Cat brush - medium & long hair cats need to be groomed regularly
- Cat carrier
- Nail clippers - use caution when using nail clippers and never cut below the cuticle line in the nail
- Toys - no toys with objects inside which the kitten could swallow or string
- Get an 'easy to read' first aid, emergency book such as The First Aid Companion for Cats and Dogs or Pet First Aid
Dry food: Have dry kitten food available at all times, and of course, plenty of fresh water. Introduce the kitten to any new foods gradually to avoid upsetting its stomach. New foods should be mixed with he food the kitten is currently eating, gradually adding more of the new food and less of the old until the kitten is eating the new food exclusively. Use high quality name brand 'kitten' food such as Purina One Kitten or Science Diet Kitten. Whether or not to feed dry or moist kitten food is debatable and there are differing opinions on this subject.
Wet food: If you decide to feed moist food, it is very important to not leave uneaten moist food for more than a few hours. Throw away moist food that is starting to dry up. Some kittens do not mind food served cold which has been in the refrigerator. You may want to slightly 'warm' up refrigerated food before feeding it to the kitten. If you heat food in the microwave, only do so for only 7 or 8 seconds and be sure to stir the food thoroughly (to avoid hot spots) before offering it to the kitten.
Treats: It is probably best not to give treats. If you do give treats, never exceed 10% of the diet. If you make a regular habit of giving a treat after you finish eating, the kitten will learn to look forward to it and won't bother you, your family, or your guests while you eat, but will wait patiently.
Milk - Contrary to popular belief, cow's milk is not good for cats. Most can't digest it properly and consequently get diarrhea. Do NOT give cow's milk to kittens or cats!
Dishes - Aluminum or glass/glazed porcelain/china dishes are best if you are feeding moist food. Plastic dishes can harbor germs in the surface which can cause a condition known as feline acne. Feline acne is small pimples on the chin, which cause swelling and discomfort and can be very difficult to clear up. If this problem arises, consult your vet for the best method of treatment. Plastic dishes should be fine if you are feeding only dry food.
Please remember that this is probably your kitten's first time away from the only home she has ever known. Give the kitten time and don't expect him to be best friends with you right away. Keep the kitten's introduction to other family members and pets as quiet and stress-free as possible and, most of all, allow him a day to become used to the new surroundings.
Show the kitten her litter box, food and water as soon as you get her home but be prepared for accidents! However, don't spank the baby if she misses her litter box! Rather, pick him up, put her in her box, and make digging motions with her front paws. Young kittens sometimes forget where their boxes are, or suddenly realize they have to go now - this is normal, and will pass quickly. Also, kittens do best with their 'own' litter box and their 'own' food bowl.
Introduce the kitten to one room at a time; offer encouragement and petting, but allow him to explore in his own time. After he is comfortable and settled down in the first room, allow him to proceed to others. Try not to startle the kitten, and again, remember that this is a stressful time. It is not unusual for a new kitten to hide, be skittish, or refuse to eat for a couple of days. Give lots of 'gentle' petting, soft speech, and encouragement and you will find that the kitten will quickly adjust.
Be aware that the kitten might cry a lot the first couple of nights. Although she is completely weaned, she may miss being around other cats or her mother, or just feel insecure and lonely. As soon as she makes friends with you and your other pet(s), this crying should stop. If the kitten does not stop crying, there could be another problem and you should consider consulting your vet.
Other Pets: If you have other pets, wait until the kitten is settled and comfortable before bringing in other animals, then only one at a time. Do not leave the kitten alone with the other pet(s) until you are certain that they are good friends (this may be several weeks!). First let the animals smell where the other has been and then see each other from a distance. When they are first introduced, if they are a dog and cat, have the dog on a leash and make sure the cat does not scratch the dog (keep a water spray bottle handy). Be certain to give the pets already in your home lots of attention in order to prevent jealousy and avoid stirring territorial instincts. The original pet may not take too kindly to the new addition. The new kitten should have his own litter pan and food dish.
Kittenproofing - before you let your kitten loose in your home, check the following safety hazards.
- Poisonous plants
- Electrical and phone cords left dangling
- Keep toilet lids closed (a kitten can easily drown in a toilet bowl)
- Make certain they cannot get in the fireplace.
- Open stairways (kittens, puppies, cats and dogs are at great danger in home with a 'half wall' or even open rails on an upstairs room. They can easily fall through or jump over a half wall, pluging down to the floor below! Take precautions!)
- Reclining chairs, sofabeds, murphy beds and other hide-a-beds (the mechanism of these can easily crush a kitten who has crawled inside)
- Fringe or any loose trim (kittens have been known to strangle when their heads get twisted in the fringe or in a hole between trim and fabric)
- Dangling drapery cords (another invitation to strangulation)
- Accessible garbage (especially any kind of bones - bones can either splinter and perforate the stomach or intestines, or form an intestinal blockage)
- Needles and/or thread; knitting and/or crocheting materials
- Rubber bands (which can wrap around the intestines)
- Plastic wrap or bags (the kitten can eat, or strangle, or suffocate on)
- Styrofoam (especially packing "peanuts") which the kitten may eat
- Cigarettes (kittens may eat)
- Yarn or string toys (can wrap around the intestines or block them); toys with easily removed and swallowed parts
- Cellophane (turns glassy in the stomach and can cause internal lacerations)
- Christmas tree needles, tinsel and decorations
- Open refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, ovens, washers, dryers - always check for kittens before shutting or turning on any appliance!
- Put away feathers and toys attached to string (such as kitty teasers) after use (eat feathers and swallow string)
- Keep your workshop off-limits (cats will jump at moving objects such as drills and power saws - may also swallow screws, nails, wire and other small parts)
- Cleaning products and other chemicals (anything with phenyl is deadly to cats - this includse products such as Pineoclean and many other disinfectants)
- Floor and counter surfaces (best solution is to use is one part bleach to 30 parts water)
- Anti-freeze (cats love certain scents, and one of their favorites is antifreeze which will kill a cat quickly)
- Never use Lysol products around cats (over a period of time Lysol can sicken or kill a cat)
Emergency Numbers: Keep the phone numbers of your vet, an emergency 'after hours' clinic, and local poison control center, posted by your phone. The number for the National Animal Poison Control Center is (888) 426-4435 - they may charge $65 for a consultation.
Indoors / Outdoors: When making a decision to keep a cat strictly indoors or sometimes let them outdoors, consider the fact that cats face many dangers when outside such as cat fights, dog attacks, hit by cars, poisoned or killed by people that do not like cats and there are many contagious diseases they can get when outside. Facts clearly show that on the average indoor cats live twice as long as cats allowed to go outdoors. Besides the basics of food and water, give them cat toys, a carpeted kitty condo, a nice window to look out of, some attention and affection and they will be content, as well as safe, indoors. Most animals, not all, usually benefit from having an animal companion of their own species. Provide your cat with a window to look out as most cats enjoy sitting in a window. Many Petsmart or Petco Stores sell window seats. Or place a tall cat climbing carpeted house by the window.
Find a veterinarian immediately and establish a relationship. Waiting until you have a sick animal is not the time to find a vet you like and feel comfortable with. Make sure to ask the vet about who would you contact during the hours their clinic is not open. Some vets treat their own emergencies and other vets send you to an animal emergency clinic. Keep the phone numbers of your vet and an emergency 'after hours' clinic (you may want to drive by the emergency clinic so you know how to get there) readily available. Also, keep a vaccinations/worming schedule and all other health information in a place you can easily locate.
The AMVA recommends the following vaccinations for kittens: Feline Panleukopenia Virus Vaccine (distemper), Feline Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis AKA Feline Herpes Virus, and Rabies. Other vaccines include Bordetella bronchiseptica (for kennel cough), Gardiasis, and Chlamydiosis. Your kitten's lifestyle and circumstances will play a large role in what vaccinations he needs - talk with your veterinarian about the best vaccination plan. If you have adopted your kitten from CAP, the kitten's vaccinations will be up to date, he will be wormed, spayed/neutered, and checked for feline leukemia.
If you plan of giving the currently available Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) vaccine to your kitten, be aware that having had the FeLV series does not guarantee immunity and you should therefore still limit your kitten's exposure to other cats. Cats.about.com has detailed information on vaccination issues.
Fleas: Do not use flea collars, first because their effectiveness is questionable and second, because flea collars can cause skin sores on long-haired cats due to the concentration of poison around the neck. Rather, a good rinse or monthly single dose of products such as Frontline or Advantage (available from your vet) is a better solution to the problem of fleas. Consult your vet for the best option. Flea products contain toxic substances and their use should be minimized to the extent possible.
Contrary to widespread belief, cats are trainable by proper methods: rewards and tangible but removed punishment (see ‘Spray Bottle Method' below). Declawing is not a solution to cat clawing at furniture - declawing is a mutilation, not a minor operation. Also, a declawed cat cannot escape nor can they defend themselves as well as a cat with claws. Training for cats is more about protecting kittens from themselves - for instance, teach your kitten not to jump on counters since they may jump on a stove and be burned.
Be firm and patient with your kitten. By teaching it the house rules now, you can avoid future behavioral problems. Actions that are cute in a kitten may not seem so cute in an adult (such as nursing on your arm or sitting on the dining room table). If the kitten scratches its claws where it should not, firmly (without yelling) say "NO", take it to its scratching post, and make scratching motions with its feet. Kittens respond well to a firm voice and patience. They are naturally fastidious, and want to behave.
The Water Spray Bottle Method: Behavior problems that do not respond to "No!" can usually be modified by giving the kitten a quick shot of water from a spray bottle. This method removes you from the punishment in the kitten's mind, which is desirable for two reasons: The kitten doesn't begin to fear you as a source of punishment (as it would if you spank!), and it thinks the water is ‘An Act of God,' and will refrain from the undesirable behavior even if you are not around. (A similar method works to keep your kitten from running outdoors: Stand outside, hose in hand, door open, and spray the kitten when it sets foot outside. After a few times, the kitten will decide that there's nothing out there that it wanted anyway!
Collars and Leashes: If you use a collar on your kitten only use a stretch collar and check it weekly to be sure it is not becoming too tight as the kitten grows. A too-loose collar is also dangerous. An elastic collar or breakaway stretch collar is the best choice, as it will separate if it becomes caught on something. Breakaway collars have been known not to breakaway. If you cannot break the collar open using two fingers on your same hand, then it may be too difficult for your cat to break away this type collar. If using a collar, include an ID tag but use the small tag meant for cats and not the larger tag.
If you train your kitten to a leash, use a harness designed for cats - never a collar because a cat will only struggle against the pull of a collar around its neck, but may be more amenable to the behind-the front-legs tug of a harness. Remember that harnesses are not totally secure, and a cat wearing a harness and leash should never be left unsupervised. The cat may slip out of the harness, or strangle himself on the leash. Do not leave a harness on an animal when indoors or unsupervised. Harnesses are not only uncomfortable for wearing in the house but the animal can get the harness snagged on something. Never walk a leashed cat near a roadway or on a busy sidewalk unless you're sure the cat is very calm - cats that can be trusted not to panic in these situations are literally one-in-a-million! The noise and motion of cars, people, other animals, etc. can cause a cat to panic, slip its harness, and dash into danger. The best place for your leashed cat is in your own quiet back yard with you there with her.
Kittens and adult cats like to play. Generally, the morning or early evening (following afternoon naps) is the best time if you want an enthusiastic response, especially in an adult cat. Soft toys with no small, easily removed and swallowed pieces are good toys; a piece of sturdy cloth attached to a thick string tied to a stick is wonderful. With it you can go 'fishing for kittens,' and the pouncing and jumping this toy elicits is great exercise for the kitten. If you use this type of toy, do not leave the kitten unattended with it as the kitten may strangle itself with or on the string. Do not rough play with your kitten, as this can make the kitten too aggressive (if the kitten kicks at your hand or bites at your fingers, say "no," blow in its face, and remove your hand).
Remember that what your kitten needs most is your time and attention. Especially if the kitten is left alone during the day, she will be very glad to see you in the evening and demand quite a bit of attention. Please remember that kittens are sensitive, living creatures, and don't allow your friends, children, or other pets to mishandle the kitten. One sure way to guarantee an unsatisfactory pet is to mistreat her, even inadvertently. On the other hand, plenty of attention, love and considerate play will result in a companion who will give years of joy.