Adopting a kitten is an exciting time for any household. Of course, while cats are more self-sufficient than dogs, they do have some unique requirements. So, whether you are a first-time cat owner or need to refresh your memory, here is everything you need to know about how to look after a kitten.
From your cat’s perspective, the most important thing they need is a safe space. This sanctuary needs to be quiet and comfortable, so it is important it is not easily accessible by any children or other pets who might not automatically respect a cat’s need for privacy. You will need to provide several safe spaces for your cat; cats prefer privacy when eating, drinking and using the litter tray, but you shouldn’t keep these items in the same location. It may be best to keep your kitten in a separate room at first. Cats don’t necessarily like to share their bowls, litter trays and beds, so if you are considering adopting multiple kittens, you will need more of each. We also recommend investing in a scratching post, so your young kitten can keep their claws trim. This is also the time to do some final kitten-proofing around the home. Remove any toxic plants, small items that might be swallowed, or hazardous chemicals, and tidy up and secure any exposed cabling, outlets, etc.
After weaning off their mother’s milk, kittens are still vulnerable to disease and there are a number of viruses, like herpes and FIE, which cats are highly susceptible to catching. So, the next thing to do to look after your kitten should be to visit a vet to book essential vaccinations. Don’t be worried if your vet suggests something that you are unfamiliar with; viruses come and go and outbreaks can mean additional vaccinations are sometimes advised. In addition to a quick health check-up, your vet can recommend tips for general care and what your kitten should eat, so take this opportunity to get professional advice about how best to care for your new cat.
After bringing your kitten into your home for the first time, take them to their sanctuary. Keep any young children and pets away to begin with so your new kitten can get comfortable. Eventually, start allowing family members in for small visits, taking care that young children are accompanied. Playing with toys is fun – you shouldn’t allow your kitten to play with your hands and fingers as they are likely to learn that these are toys which could cause you harm! When your kitten is calm, gradually introduce stroking and holding to develop a closer bond with you. If they get rough with you, pull your arm away and they will start to learn that they shouldn’t behave that way. Many of you may already have other pets. Remember, to your other dogs and cats, your new kitten is a stranger invading their territory. Be sympathetic to their confusion but introduce them to their new family member slowly and carefully. After all, one swipe of a claw or a loud bark could put them off one another for good. Fortunately, there are tried and tested methods to introducing pets to one another safely so they accept your new kitten into their home, such as positively introducing one another to each other’s scent.
Kittens are very active and enjoy playing regularly, but for short periods. Allow your kitten to dictate when and for how long they play and train, and when they want to rest, make sure they are not disturbed.
Kittens don’t have very long attention spans, so a frequent but bite-sized lesson is the best way to train your kitten. Avoid scolding him or her when they do something you don’t like. All this will do is teach them to be afraid of you. Instead, use positive reinforcement, such as treats and petting, to encourage them to repeat the actions you want to encourage. Once your kitten knows where they can feel secure, they will start to feel at home. Don’t be afraid to consult your vet regularly if you are worried about illness or unusual development; that is why they are there. Instead, focus on embracing your new family member, giving them lots of affection and enjoying your lives together.