When you first bring your kitten home, it can be a big change – for you and for them. To make the experience better for everyone, there are some things you can do before your kitten arrives.
Kittens are curious creatures and that curiosity can sometimes get them into trouble. Here are a few simple tips to help keep them safe:
It’s a good idea to have a collection of the basics before your new kitten arrives. All these items are available at specialty pet stores, through your vet or online. The right food is vital, as is somewhere to eat and drink, and a place to sleep, things to play with and a litter box
When your kitten first arrives, it’s important to get the details right to help them settle into your home. Your kitten will be experiencing a multitude of new sights, sounds and smells. Remember to be patient and let them explore their new environment and adjust gradually. Don’t forget, they’ve left their mother and littermates. It’s normal that they’ll be a bit frightened at first.
Choose a quiet room for your kitten to spend its first few days in. This allows them to adjust to their new environment gradually. Set up their litter tray in this room to make litter training easier.
Supervise your kitten when you allow them access to other areas of your home. Kittens are inquisitive and it is amazing what hazards they can quickly uncover.
Be mindful your new kitten may be stressed and cry a little the first few nights as they adjust to their new environment.
Handle kittens with care – sudden movement or rough handling can be frightening. The best way to pick up your kitten is to slide an open hand under their tummy as your other hand supports their rear end.
Let your kitten meet the rest of the family in stages – all at once can be overwhelming. When you introduce your kitten to children, other pets and family members, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Despite the close bond between humans and cats, they have very different needs when it comes to nutrition. Cats are carnivores; their bodies have evolved to digest and absorb nutrients from meat based sources of food. Humans on the other hand, are omnivores; our bodies have evolved to digest a combination of meat and vegetable matter. The nutrients they require in their diet to remain healthy therefore are very different to ours.
Another way cats differ from us is how they determine their preference for food. The perception of taste is very strong in humans, however cats have approximately 95% less taste buds than we do. As their sense of taste is not as refined, cats decide whether they like a food based on its smell and texture.
The first year of your kitten’s life is when they do most of their growing, so it is essential to feed them a good quality kitten diet. Their digestive and immune systems are maturing during this time and a good quality diet will help support this development too. By feeding them properly during this time and continuing to do so throughout their adult life, you can help set them up for a long, healthy life.
Kittens should continue to gain weight, however overweight kittens don’t grow well. Review the feeding guidelines recommended on your kitten’s food packaging and carefully measure these servings accordingly. As kittens prefer to eat smaller meals over the course of the day, allow your kitten access to food all day where possible.
When changing your kitten or cat’s diet, make sure you gradually mix the food over a seven day period, increasing the amount of the new food added each day so that 100% of the new food will be provided by day seven. This will help avoid any digestive stress and diarrhoea. It is important to remember that food transitioning should be done with any and all diet changes your kitten or cat goes through at any stage in their life.
Your kitten must always have access to a bowl of fresh clean water, and preferably have several water bowls around your home.
75% usual food +25% new food
50% usual food +50% new food
25% usual food +75% new food
+100% new food
A kitten’s diet not only has to supply them with energy, but it also has to build and maintain the body’s cells as they grow and develop. A super premium diet is precisely formulated to support your kitten’s digestion, growth and encourage vitality as they mature.
If your kitten is not fed a balanced growth diet, they could suffer from major nutritional deficiencies or excesses, resulting in developmental issues and potentially even long-term damage to their health. Be sure to select a high quality, complete and balanced diet to support the health of your kitten – your veterinarian will be able to recommend an appropriate diet.
The first four months of a kitten’s life involves an intense growth spurt. It’s also a time that they are prone to digestive upsets as they lose their capacity to digest lactose and are weaned. A mistake commonly made during this stage is to feed your kitten cow’s milk, which is not suitable for kittens and can cause diarrhoea.
Between four to twelve months, the energy needs reduce gradually as the kitten approaches its adult size. During this time kittens also shed their milk teeth which are replaced by permanent adult teeth. Their digestive system is also gradually maturing and is more able to cope with solid food.
Kittens usually start grooming themselves at around 15 days old. Along with sleeping, grooming is one of your kitten’s top priorities. They use their rough tongue to clean themselves, but they also use their front and rear paws. Some cats have a high maintenance or long haired coat and may need your assistance with grooming.
Many kittens learn how to use the litter tray by watching their mother. They become familiar with the type of litter box and litter used from a young age. To maximise the success of litter training, ensure you continue to use the litter type the kitten has previously used and if you choose to change the litter type, do it gradually.
If the kitten is not litter trained when it comes home, stand the kitten in the litter tray and use one of its forepaws to scratch at the litter - the best time to do this is immediately after eating or sleeping. Use a ‘wet wipe’ or some moist cotton wool to massage the kitten’s ano-genital area to try and stimulate toileting.
Some additional tips for litter training include:
Have one litter box for every cat in the household.
Confine your kitten to a small area or room where the litter boxes are located.
Ensure the litter box is in a quiet area of the home that is not a thoroughfare.
If you don’t have success and your kitten doesn’t use the tray, try a different litter or litter box (e.g. covered litter box or one with lower sides).
Kittens explore their environment, develop physical capabilities and exercise through play. They love to run, climb, jump and pounce. High perches like tables, cupboards, shelves and sofa backs all offer great potential as part of their playground. Being up high helps them feel secure as it provides vantage points to survey their surroundings. Kittens can occasionally become rough during play and begin to bite or scratch – it is important to not continue to play with them in this way and instead, cease your interaction with them. Always use toys in place of hands and feet to avoid this becoming acceptable as they mature.
The first four weeks of life for your kitten are spent in social contact with the queen (their mother) and littermates. Positive social interactions in these first few weeks of life has been shown to affect how sociable the kitten is when it is mature. This socialisation should continue as they grow and develop, and the critical period is between 2-7 weeks of age. When your new kitten arrives home, it is important to set the kitten up for success by preventing access to areas where they can cause trouble and ensure all interactions at home with people, other animals and inanimate objects are positive and stress free.
De-sexing or Neutering