Do we detect the pitter-patter of tiny kitten paws in your house? If you’re adding a new feline family member, here are some important kitten care tips to help you make a successful start.
Age matters. The kitten socialization period, when they learn to interact with other animals and humans, ends at around 7 weeks of age. To encourage healthy social interactions and bonds, make sure kittens aren’t separated from the litter before this time.
Catproof the house. Remove toxic houseplants; put away string, yarn, buttons and other small objects that can be swallowed; and cover electrical cords that can be chewed.
Start a veterinary health program. Your veterinarian can recommend the right vaccines, parasite prevention and nutrition to help put your kitten on the road to good health.
Tag your kitten. It’s easy for small kittens to inadvertently slip out the door. Increase the chance they’ll be returned to you with an ID tag on a breakaway collar. This kind of collar snaps off if caught on a fence or branch to prevent choking, in which case a microchip can serve as a permanent form of identification.
Make gradual introductions. If you have other household pets, keep the kitten in a separate room, allowing pets to sniff each other under the door, then through a baby gate, and then gradually introduce supervised meetings over the course of a week.
Scratching is a normal behavior. Provide kittens with scratching posts so they can give in to their natural instincts. Start nail trims early so kittens are comfortable with having their paws handled.
Count the litter boxes. You need one box for every cat in the household, plus one more, in different locations. Large, uncovered boxes with low sides in easily accessible but private locations are best. Most cats prefer unscented, clumping litter that’s scooped every day.
Stay positive. Never punish a kitten because this can lead to fear, anxiety and aggression. Instead, reinforce good behavior with praise and a treat.
Make time for play. Purchase or make cat-safe toys, such as feather dancers and balls that can’t be chewed or swallowed. They don’t have to be expensive — kittens like hiding in cardboard boxes and paper grocery bags or batting around wads of crumpled paper.
Invest in good nutrition. Your veterinarian can recommend a diet that’s specially formulated to provide the energy and nutrients to help your kitten grow strong and healthy. Avoid the bottomless food bowl, which can lead to overeating and obesity.
Start brushing. Use a finger brush and pet toothpaste to get your kitten accustomed to dental care from an early age. Same goes for grooming: Brush medium- and long-haired cats to help prevent the development of painful mats.
Train your kitten. Most kittens are able to learn certain commands such as “come” and “sit.” Keep training sessions short, and reward the right behavior with treats and praise.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.