Top 10 Kitten Care Tips
Adopting a kitten is a fun and exciting process. A cat can bring warmth and happiness to any home and family. Cats make wonderful companions and require varying levels of playtime, attention, and exercise based on the individual cat’s needs. Most kittens, however, have a common set of needs in order to grow into healthy adult cats. Read on for our top 10 kitten care tips.
1. Choose the Right Food
Like people, baby cats have different food needs than adult cats. Kitten food can be wet or dry and should be high-protein and easy to digest. Some pet owners will give kittens a mix of wet and dry food. Adult cat food does not have the same level of caloric and nutritional content as kitten food, so it is important to choose a food formulated specifically for kittens. Quality kitten foods usually contain:
- DHA (fatty acids)
- Taurine (amino acids)
- Folic acid
- At least 35% protein
You can give your kitten high-protein foods like cooked egg yolk, boneless fish, and cooked or raw liver to help build strong bones. Be sure to consult your veterinarian for assistance in planning your kitten’s diet.
2. Keep Water Available at All Times
After weaning, kittens lose the ability to digest milk sugar efficiently. Therefore, water should be available for your kitten at all times. Set up water bowls around your house for your kitten to find, and be sure to direct them to the water for the first few weeks as they get to know your house. Choose shallow bowls that are easy for kittens to use. Change the water at least once per day, as many kittens will reject water that is not clean. Try a running water fountain if your kitten is reluctant, as instinctively, cats gravitate towards running water and associate still water with contamination.
3. Start Litter Box Training Immediately
When you first bring your kitten home, try to keep them in the same room with the litter box as much as possible. For most kittens, using the litter box will be instinctual because cats naturally prefer to bury their waste. If the box is nearby and easy-to-find, they will likely start getting used to it quickly.
During the first few weeks, place your kitten directly into the box after eating or play to help them make the association. Make sure you are keeping the box clean – otherwise, they may be discouraged from using it. You will need to invest in a scoop and a quality litter box.
4. Make a Spaying/Neutering Appointment
There are multiple health reasons to spay or neuter your cat, including avoiding cancer and unwanted pregnancies. Appointments generally take less than half an hour and are available at many humane societies and veterinary clinics.
The procedure can be done as early as 8 weeks and should be done prior to 6 months of age. Be conscious of the following abnormal recovery symptoms:
- Lethargy, depression, or weakness
- Loss of appetite/decreased water intake
- Increased or decreased body temperature (cool or warm to the touch)
- Unsteady gait
- Pale gums
- Labored breathing
It is generally suggested to offer your kitten half their normal serving of food and water two hours after returning home from surgery. Ask your vet about specific post-op recommendations.
5. Find a Regular Vet and Get Vaccinations
Working with a vet consistently is a great way to maintain records and stay on a regular vaccination and booster routine. Do some research and find a local vet with good reviews. Make an appointment right after you adopt your kitten. Your vet will conduct an overall evaluation and administer all necessary vaccinations.
Follow-up visits are necessary during the first year. Kittens are typically vaccinated every 3-4 weeks until they are 4 months old. Once they reach adulthood, cats need annual checkups, where they will get rabies and FVRCP vaccines. Working with a veterinarian is critical to ensuring your kitten grows up healthy.
6. Kitten-Proof Your Home
Kittens are curious and like to explore. Since they are so small, they can get into small spaces and even get lost in your home. Keep an eye on your kitten to ensure they don’t get caught between appliances, fall into toilets, or get into crawlspaces. You should also make sure your indoor plants are not toxic to cats, as cats naturally like to chew on greenery. Some common houseplants that are dangerous for cats include:
- Elephant’s ear
- Aloe vera
- Snake plant
7. Purchase an Identification Tag and/or Microchip
Some shelter kittens have microchips inserted under their skin. This makes it possible to track them should they get lost. Even if your kitten lives indoors, some kind of identification is necessary, as it is easy for kittens to slip out through open doors. You can have a tag engraved with your phone number and name and attach it to a collar just in case your kitten gets out.
8. Groom and Clean Your Kitten
Brushing your kitten will help them get accustomed to the sensation and make them feel clean. It will also reduce the occurrence of hairballs and minimize dander. While potty-training, some kittens will need to be washed with a cat-specific soap to keep their coats clean.
Trimming your kitten’s nails is also a critical part of grooming. Cat nails can easily cause snags, and many cats like to “sharpen” their nails on carpeting and furniture. Using an electric nail trimmer tool is the safest way to keep your kitten’s nails blunt and clean. Typically, kitten claws should be trimmed once a month. Since many cats can be skittish about nail trimming, introducing it early is a great way to get them comfortable with it.
9. Choose the Right Cat Toys
When you bring your kitten home, it’s best to get a variety of toys. You can see which toys your cat prefers and what level of energy they have naturally. Most kittens like to play, but some like to play with certain toys more than others. Kittens need their exercise, and playing with your kitten is a great way to bond and build trust. There are lots of kitten toys you can introduce, such as:
- Toy mice
- Jingle balls
- Feather wands
- Globe balls
- Chaser toys
10. Socialize Your Kitten
It is best to introduce your kitten to other animals and/or children early in life. Kittens who are not used to others may not learn how to interact with them. Socializing your kitten will enable them to get along with other animals once they reach adulthood. If you have children, it is critical that you teach them to respect your kitten’s boundaries and handle your kitten gently and respectfully. All cats are different, so try to assess their natural tendencies. A socialized kitten is more likely to grow up into an affectionate cat who is comfortable with their surroundings.