Bringing a little cat friend into your family is a wonderful, exciting time. The first year of life is extremely important in shaping your cat’s ability to cope, as well as their relationship with your family members and visitors. Read on for tips on choosing the best feline friend for your family, and for help ensuring they get a good start on life.
Choosing your kitten
People find kittens in many places. From April to October, considered “kitten season,” animal shelters are full as stray cats give birth to thousands of kittens needing adoption. Some people will accept their new pet from a friend or relative whose cat had kittens, while others will pay substantial money to a pet store or cat breeder.
No matter where or how you decide you want a kitten, don’t just pick the cutest one—all kittens are cute. Spend some time with several kittens to get a sense of their individual personalities. Do they want to sit on your lap, run away, or something in between? Do they want to play with the other kittens, with you, or both? Do they show fear by running away or hiding? A kitten who does not want to engage or play with you or other kittens will require extra socialization, or may mature into a fearful cat, or one who prefers to be alone.
Bringing your kitten home
You have finally picked out your new family member. Before you bring them home, you will need to ensure you are fully prepared with the following:
- Food and water bowls
- Cat food
- Cat treats
- Litter boxes and litter
- A variety of cat toys
- Scratching post—essential
- Cat tree—optional, but cats need to climb
Setting up your kitten for success
Follow these guidelines when buying your new kitten’s bowls, litter, and scratching post.
- Food and water bowls — Your kitty’s bowls ideally should be ceramic, and placed on an elevated surface your pet can reach, in a quiet area. Cats often do not feel comfortable eating in a busy area, especially if there are children or other household pets, and want to be able to eat in peace.
- Litter and litter boxes — Provide the same number of litter boxes as cats in the house, plus one additional box (i.e., one kitten should have two litter boxes, but two cats should have three litter boxes), all kept in different areas that are quiet and low-traffic. Clean all litter boxes often, at least twice-weekly, because some cats won’t use a litter box containing urine or feces. The last thing you want is for your cat to stop using the litter box.
- Scratching posts — Scratching is a natural behavior for cats, and if you do not provide somewhere to scratch, they will find one—often your furniture, or another inappropriate place. Whether you choose a vertical or horizontal scratching post, ensure the post is sturdy enough that it will not fall on your kitten when they scratch. Praise your kitten and reward them with treats when they scratch in the appropriate place. If they start scratching in the wrong place, never yell or scold, but try to redirect them to the proper scratching surface.
Socializing your kitten is key
Socialization is most important for a growing kitten so they learn to understand their new world, feel safe, and are able to cope with new situations and people. Ensure your kitten has a variety of toys and, if they want to play, play with them. A cat tree or other climbing structure adds another dimension to their play.
Cat treats should be used liberally in new situations. For example, when your kitten walks up to you and allows you to pet them, give them a treat. Pick up the kitten, cradle them, and turn them upside down and then give another treat. Touch the kitten’s paws, ears, belly, and tail during each touch, giving a treat each time. Squeeze-tube cat treats are a good option for all new situations.
Kittens need respect
Every family member must learn to respect the kitten. If your kitten is sleeping, let them sleep—like people, cats do not like to be woken up. Supervise child-kitten interactions until the child knows to use an indoor voice and gentle hands, and not to sit on, step on, hit, throw, or squeeze the kitten. If the kitten disengages from play or interaction, each family member should respect the kitten’s decision to enjoy some alone time.
Airway Animal Clinic loves kittens as much as you do. Let us be part of your new kitty’s path to adulthood. Contact us, and make an appointment to ensure she is healthy, and starts off with the necessary vaccinations and veterinary care.