Kittens and cats make for wonderful household companions. Even though they may not require the same attention and activities as puppies, caring for a kitten is still a significant responsibility. How a kitten is cared for in the early stages of their life with greatly impact their development, behaviour and social skills later in life. Here are a few tips to consider when caring for your first kitten.
Bringing your kitten home for the first time
Before you get too settled with your bouncing bundle of joy, the first thing to do is to make an appointment with your local vet to ensure the health of your kitten and arrange their vaccinations, worming treatments, mircochipping and desexing. Your vet can also offer basic advice regarding kitten care.
When you get home, allow your curious kitten to explore their new environment without too much distraction to make the transition as smooth and stress-free as possible. Although kittens need plenty of affection, it’s important not too over-handle them either as they also love their independence.
It is highly recommended that all pets are fully vaccinated to safeguard them from serious and potentially fatal diseases. Kittens in particular are vulnerable to common diseases such as feline enteritis, feline chlamydia and feline respiratory disease. These types of diseases are contagious which means until you kitten has been fully vaccinated they should not be exposed to other animals or allowed to wander. Kittens also need to be wormed regularly, every two weeks until twelve weeks of age, then less often as they get older.
As with all pets, it is best to arrange annual check-ups with your local vet to monitor their dental care, weight, nutrition and overall health.
Mircochipping is a permanent form of identification and a legal requirement when you own a pet in Australia. You can arrange to have your kitten mircochipped by your vet at the same time as you get them desexed. The procedure is quick with little discomfort to the kitten but can save you plenty of stress if they ever go wandering. All registration details are kept with the council so if someone finds your kitten, they can scan the chip and get in contact with you. Make sure to keep your details updated when necessary.
Desexing is an essential responsibility that comes with owning a kitten and can be arranged around 12 weeks of age or preferably before they reach sexual maturity. Not only does desexing your kitten prevent the birth of unexpected or unwanted litters, it can prevent serious health conditions later in life. Desexing can also improve their behaviour which reduces the probability of them roaming or fighting with other cats.
In order to make the transition into their new home as smooth as possible, try to continue feeding your kitten the same food they were receiving from the previous owners. As they become more comfortable in their new environment, you can then slowly introduce other food. The most convenient way to feed your kitten a healthy and balanced diet is to use a combination of kitten specific tinned/semi-moist and dry foods. By buying good quality foods, your pets will generally receive all the nutrition they need.
Play time is a great opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your kitten. Kittens are extremely curious and playful so make sure you have plenty of different toys to keep them occupied otherwise they will turn on your couches and curtains instead. Scratching posts, tunnels, boxes, soft balls and small furry toys attached to string are great to provide your kitten with hours of fun. Play time may seems like as much fun for you but it’s also essential to help your kitten develop co-ordination and good social behaviour.
If you find that the play becomes too aggressive, you should stop immediately which lets them know that play time is over. If your kitten is starting bad habits like clawing furniture, a gentle spray with a water bottle is the best way to teach them when they are doing something naughty. Don’t forget to give them plenty of praise when they show good behaviour as it’s the easiest way for a kitten to learn.
In many cases, your new kitten may already be litter trained as they can generally pick this up quite quickly. If not, the process is a simple matter of teaching them to associate the action with their litter tray. Get into the habit of physically placing the kitten into its litter tray when it’s likely to need it, for example; first thing in the morning, after every meal, before you put the kitten to bed and if you have just caught your kitten in the act.
Also, make sure you praise them each time they get it right. It is important not to punish the kitten if an accident has occurred as they will not understand what they are being punished for. You may need to be patient but over time the kitten will actually prefer to take its business to the litter, provided it is kept clean and out of the way.
Before you become a pet owner, make sure you are aware of all the responsibilities and can fully commit to ensure them the best care. If you have any further questions about caring for a kitten, please give us a call on 02 9476 3307.