Having a new kitten can require some adjustments, especially if you have never had a feline pet. Don't worry! With a little work you can forge a rewarding relationship with your new pet that can last for many years.
Litterbox: A litter box should be easy for your kitten to access. It should have low enough sides that they can easily get in and out of it. It should be wide enough that they can turn around in it and they should be able to easily scratch and cover their eliminations.
Litter: There are numerous choices for litter available. Most will work just fine. However, some cats will have a dislike for a strong scent or high dust content. If you notice your kitten avoiding or turning their nose up at the litter box, it may be worth it to try a different brand.
Toys: Toys should encourage play. A good example is a ping-pong ball or similarly sized object that can be easily chased. Other toys such as feather toys, food foraging toys and chew toys are also good picks.
Scratching Post or Area: You can provide a typical scratching post or other object that is appropriate for your kitten like a small log or rope covered item. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Try to find one that fits your home and your preferences.
Kitten food: Before the kitten is full grown (9 months - 1 Year), they should be eating food that is specially formulated for kittens.
Training treats: Treats used for training should be high value treats that your kitten gets excited about. You should only provide them during times of training and when you are praising good behavior. If given too freely, the kitten is likely to develop weight problems.
Harness/Leash: A harness is optional. However, if you feel like you may want to walk your cat, it is best to introduce harnesses during kittenhood.
We recommend that your first vet visit with your kitten be at 6-8 weeks of age. At this visit we will do a full physical examination. We will also discuss vaccinations, deworming and other testing.
Most kittens will need three sets of vaccinations. These vaccines are the FVRCP, Feline leukemia and Rabies.
FVRCP: The FVRCP vaccine includes Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calici and Panleukopenia viruses. These are viruses that cause upper respiratory tract infections. We will typically give three of these vaccines, 3-4 weeks apart.
Rabies: The Rabies vaccine is required, by law, to be given by 16 weeks of age. This vaccination is given yearly.
Feline Leukemia: The Feline Leukemia virus is a virus that can be passed from mother to kitten. It can also be spread by social behaviors, like grooming, with infected cats. The Feline Leukemia vaccine is recommended for kittens even if they do not have interaction with other cats. For adult cats, if they are high risk or have a social lifestyle, this vaccine is given yearly.
There is a test for Feline Leukemia and another virus called the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. This test is recommended for all kittens due to the risks these diseases present. These diseases result in long term effects and carry a high possibility of spreading to other cats. If you have more than one cat in your household I recommend that they stay separated from your new addition until testing has been completed.
It is very common for kittens to have intestinal parasites, or worms, when they are young. We will give your kitten dewormer and also send a fecal sample to the lab. The results of the fecal test will determine whether your kitten will need any further treatments or testing.
Flea and Heartworm Prevention
At your first visit we will also go over flea and heartworm prevention for your kitten. Even indoor cats can have problems with fleas and heartworms. Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes. Cats are not the normal host for heartworms but when they do get heartworms, it often makes them very sick.
There is no treatment option for adult heartworms in cats. For this reason prevention is strongly recommended.
Litter Box Training
As mentioned above, the best first step is acquiring a litter box that is the appropriate size and shape for your kitten. You will have more difficulty litter box training your kitten if their litter box is more difficult for them to use. The litter box should be in a quiet place where they will not be easily interrupted. It should also be in a location where children and other pets, such as dogs, will have limited access. If you have more than one cat, I recommend that you set up one litter box per cat, plus one extra.
Once you have chosen a litter type you should not change it indiscriminately. Some cats will not take well to a change in smell or texture. Any changes will require adjustment. So, plan ahead as best you can.
When your kitten is small you should take them to the litter box frequently so they have the opportunity to use it and learn where it is. Anytime they use the litter box properly you should wait until they are completely finished and then give praise with toys or treats.
If your kitten is using the bathroom outside of the litter box you should clean the area of the accident with an enzymatic pet cleaner.
Do not hit, scold or yell at your kitten when they have an accident. This will only lead to them having inappropriate bathroom behaviors.
A cat can be trained very much like a dog. You can give toys, treats or praise for good behavior. Useful behaviors that can be trained include going into a carrier, riding in the car, or taking different types of foods. Taking different foods can be useful for giving pills such as hiding them in cheese or pill pockets like Churro brand.
It is important to work with your cat on being comfortable when touched around their face, paws and legs. This can help ease interaction with strangers, children and your veterinarian.
You can even train cats to perform tricks! They can learn to come, sit, stay, wave and much more depending on what you want to work with them on.
Socializing your kitten is also important. Especially during their first 2-3 months of life. Getting them used to being around other adults, children, other animals, noises (like storms, fireworks, etc), and objects such as pet carriers is important during this age. You should gently introduce them to these different scenarios in a variety of ways. Introduce them slowly and one at a time. Avoid overwhelming and overstimulating them.
Chewing and Scratching
Chewing and Scratching can be a major issue with cats and kittens. Providing a desirable and appropriate place to scratch and proper chew toys is important. Close supervision is always needed with a young kitten. When you can not supervise them you should confine them to a small safe place which keeps them separate from your belongings. Anytime they use an appropriate scratching surface or chew toy you should give praise.
When you need to discourage a kitten from scratching, climbing, or chewing on inappropriate items, use something that distracts but doesn’t not aggressively scare them.
Here are some examples of tactics that you can try in order to prevent the undesired behavior
Blow canned air next to them.
Squirt them with a small dollar-store water gun.
Place inflated balloons around the edge of furniture that will pop when jumped upon.
Put empty soda cans on surfaces that will rattle when jostled.
Invest in noise machines with motion sensors designed to keep pets out of certain areas.
Apply a chemical spray deterrent to surfaces. Bitter Apple is an example. There are also commercially available sprays with pepper extractives that can be used. Please note that these are NOT the self-defense type pepper sprays. They should be designed for use with pets. Using self-defense pepper sprays will result in everyone having a bad day!
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they must eat predominantly meat for their health. They do best on high protein, low carbohydrate diets. Dry foods are more convenient for many, but they do contain more carbohydrates than canned diets. To help a cat maintain a healthy weight I recommend feeding a canned diet in meals. With kittens this would be three to four small meals. Most adult cats can do well on two meals a day, but cats generally prefer several small meals if this is possible for your schedule. I do not recommended you leave out dry food for the cat to freely eat. Many cats will overeat and become overweight.