Deciding to get a kitten is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it could affect the next twenty or so years of your life. It is a massive commitment, but owning a cat can provide the right person with a lot of happiness. Careful preparation needs to be undertaken before you bring home your kitten so that you will be able to look after them in the best possible way.
Your home needs to be as safe as you can make it for your new arrival, so kitten-proofing is essential. Consider your home from your kitten’s perspective, so you can have the best possible chance of protecting them against whatever they may encounter. Whether it be high surfaces, sharp objects or smaller items they could swallow, you need to spend time checking your home and eradicating any potential problems. Cover and secure exposed wires to deter your kitten from chewing through them. Cords for blinds or shutters need to be tied and moved out of the way, as these can prove fatal for a playing kitten that gets wrapped up in them.
For the first few weeks you need to watch your new pet closely to ensure they don’t get into any difficult situations. An experienced adult cat will know where they can and can’t go but a kitten won’t, so they could get stuck exploring your home. Prevent them from jumping on to high surfaces, especially when very young, as they could injure themselves or become distressed.
Don’t leave anything out that could be potentially dangerous if the kitten was to encounter them, such as sharp knives. Medication, whether for humans or cats, could prove fatal if ingested, even if only in a small dose.
Make sure there is a secure area your kitten can retreat to if they become too overwhelmed. Remember it may take time for them to adjust to their new home and the different environment will bombard them with a multitude of fresh experiences. Ensure you choose a place that isn’t likely to be disturbed much, but is easily accessible if need be.
What to buy
There are certain items you should buy before bringing your kitten home, so think about all of the important things they will need. Both wet and dry food specifically developed for kittens is available, so research carefully and think about what would be best for yours. There are a variety of beds available on the market, from those that hang off the radiator to a simple floor mat. Make sure that whatever you choose is placed somewhere warm and free from draughts. A cat carrier is essential for car transportation, visits to the vet and introducing your kitten to other pets in the home. A litter box and litter should also be purchased, with one for every cat in the house.
Your kitten’s mental and physical stimulation is imperative for their healthy development and happiness. Invest in cat trees, scratching posts and any toys that encourage your kitten’s natural instincts, such as hunting. Cats scratch to condition their claws so buying a scratching post is a must, or else they will be inclined to exercise their urge on your furniture. Food and water bowls are items that can easily be forgotten about but are required from the first day your kitten arrives home, so don’t forget to buy food without them. A cat flap may be something to consider for older kittens that have had all of their vaccinations, if you want yours to go outside.
Introducing to other animals
Proceed with caution when introducing your kitten to other animals in the home, especially dogs. Place them in a carrier or hold them close to you during the first few meetings, so they feel safe and are somewhere the other animal can’t reach. Don’t put your kitten on the floor or near to the other animal immediately, in case one reacts badly to the other. Gradual exposure over a period of time should eventually get the animals used to one another, but bear in mind it could take weeks for them to adjust.
Establishing a firm routine with your kitten will enable them to settle into their new home more quickly. Feed them at the same times every day, and put a lot of effort into playing with them. Cats are most active around dawn and dusk so playing with them in the evening could tire them out, making them less likely to disturb you during the night.
Be vigilant with litter training, as some kittens will not use the tray if they don’t think it is clean enough. Soiled litter needs removing daily and the tray should be cleaned regularly, at least once a week. Some kittens may already be trained after observing their mother use the litter tray, but if not, they should get into the habit quite quickly.
Think about microchipping your kitten. Although it isn’t compulsory by law for cats and there are other options available, it is the best form of identification for your pet. If they are lost or stolen, a simple scanning of the microchip can enable them to be returned to you, as long as you remember to keep your details up to date with the database.
A microchip roughly the size of a grain of rice is inserted under your kitten’s skin in between the shoulder blades during the harmless procedure. Many cats go missing every year, but with a microchip you can always have hope they will be found. There have been many remarkable stories about cats going missing for years, only for their owner to be eventually traced via their microchip.
Vaccinations and health care
You need to keep up to date with your kitten’s veterinary visits and vaccinations. If you adopted them the shelter may have administered some already, but you need to find out if and when any more are required. Take your new kitten to the vet, who can inform you about all of the vaccinations they need and when they should have them. You should also take them for regular health check-ups, even if nothing appears to be wrong and they are developing as they should be.
Spaying and neutering
Deciding whether or not to spay or neuter your kitten is one of the most important decisions that you will make during their lifetime. The straightforward procedure can be carried out from around four months old and onwards, as the kitten nears sexual maturity. A kitten can become pregnant from as young as four months old, which is an issue if you plan to eventually let them outside, or you have both an intact boy and an intact girl. Decide as early as possible whether you want your kitten to eventually have babies.
If not, spaying and neutering are both simple operations with many benefits. They can reduce the risk of undesirable behaviour such as calling, and neutered cats tend not to roam as far. It will also mean unneutered males won’t come to your home searching for your kitten to mate with. Spaying and neutering also reduce the risks of your cat contracting some diseases such as FIV or FeLV, which can be caught through cat fighting, usually over females. It also eliminates the risk of unwanted pregnancy, which contributes to the large number of unwanted and feral cats.
Animal Friends offer kitten insurance because we recognise the importance of insuring your cat regardless of their age.