Congratulations! You went and got yourself a new kitten! We are excited for you.
Did you know that humans have domesticated cats for over 5,500 years?
When we humans first became farmers, rats and mice started invading our food storages and wreaking havoc. Feral, wild cats were attracted to our farms because it was an attractive food source. We recognized a potential symbiotic relationship when we saw how good they were at controlling the rodent population, leading to the first domesticated cat (Felis catus).
Whether you are a first-time cat-parent or you’re an old hand at raising these beautiful animals, here are a few tips to get you started.
1. A Healthy Kitten Is A Happy Kitten
Your kitty might have an illness that isn’t obvious to you, so off to the vet you go.
The first checkup at the vet is an intimidating one. You’ll have to deal with vaccines, heartworm prevention, blood work, flea and tick prevention, all while reassuring a kitten that is probably frightened and confused. Use a sturdy carrier that is new or with minimal smells and have treats on hand to calm the kitty down.
This first overall checkup is crucial to having a healthy kitten. Countless veterinarians recommend the first visit scheduled 24 to 72 hours after adoption.
2. A Safe Kitten Is A Happy Kitten - Indoor Or Outdoor?
Is your kitty going to be a house cat? Or a free-ranging hunter? The argument against keeping cats indoors or outdoors rages on.
Cats have keen instincts and are incredibly prolific hunters. A study in National Wildlife magazine claims over 1.3 billion birds and 6 billion mammals are killed annually by domestic cats. These numbers make cats one of the biggest culprits of mortality for wildlife.
Being outdoors also exposes cats to inherent dangers like traffic, getting shot, bites by other animals, and predators like coyotes.
A single female cat can have 12 to 18 kittens a year! Having unspayed and unneutered cats outdoors leads to an uncontrollable cat population in some areas, affecting the local wildlife population.
Yet cat advocacy groups oppose the “unnatural” confinement of felines indoors and insist that cats have the right to be outside. We do advocate keeping your cat indoors or using a leash when you take them out. Make sure to get them used to the leash before exposing them to a scary new environment and use equipment designed specifically for cats.
Ultimately, it is up to you.
3. How To Keep Your Kitten Happy With Food
Kittens, like any other young mammal, have different nutritional requirements than their adult counterparts. Higher protein levels are essential for growth, with more vitamin C and E to support the rapidly growing immune systems of the very young.
Kitten food also has more calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, and iron for supporting those fragile young teeth and bones. Do some research and consult your veterinarian on the best thing for your kitten.
Cats love routine, so feed at the same time every day, and follow the recommended feeding amount based on the kitty’s weight. Give your kitten its own food bowl and litter box if you have other cats.
Keep the food bowl away from the litter box or other bowls if you have more than one cat to avoid confrontation. Remember to keep plenty of fresh water available at all times and change the water at least twice a day.
Avoid giving treats for now unless you can find healthy kitten snacks. Human food usually is high in calories and low in nutrients, making it unsuitable for kittens. Cat snacks are designed for adult cats and can have a high caloric content.
4. How To Keep Your Kitten Happy With Toys
Got to go to work and leave your kitten alone for several hours? A quick trip to a local pet store might give you several ideas on new toys. Remember to only buy from pet stores without live dogs from puppy mills.
Some puzzles let you extract treats when knocked around, keeping kittens physically active and mentally stimulated. A healthy frozen snack in an ice cube can do the same.
When your kitten is older, you can indulge its fascination with birds by setting up a viewing station or window perch. Even better, install a bird feeder just outside the window for your cat’s viewing pleasure all day long.
Catnip is species of mint that contains the essential oil nepetalactone. When some cats smell or eat catnip, it produces a natural, mild high that is harmless and lasts about 10 minutes. This response usually develops when the kitten is about 3 to 6 months old. Catnip triggers the “happy receptors” in the feline brain and can provide hours of fun and entertainment. Not all cats love catnip though, only about 50% of cats are susceptible to its effects.
Be wary if you are leaving an unconfined kitten at home alone. Young kittens, just like any other young, are not entirely aware of their surroundings and can get easily stressed or frightened. They can even be terrified of their reflections. We recommend a large pen or confined area to keep a safe, happy kitten.
5. Consider Another Kitten
If your kitten is currently the “only child,” and you have to leave it alone for long periods at a time, consider getting a second cat.
Cats are social creatures and love interaction. When introduced, the younger they are, the greater the chance for them to be best buddies. Having a playmate to run around and hang out with is great for their mental and physical development. Check out more shelters or maybe even adopt a littermate from where you got your kitten.
Introducing two cats can be tricky when the resident cat feels threatened, and the newcomer is frightened.
The newcomer should go into a confined space or a separate room, slowly adjusting to its surroundings while the resident cat adjusts to the new scent and presence. The Humane Society has detailed instructions on how to introduce two cats.
We hope that these ideas have helped get you started. May you have many long and happy years with your new kitten!