Caring for a kitten: Tips for the first month
So, you’ve found the kitten for you and you’ve followed our steps on how to kitten-proof your home, now it’s time to pick up the new member of your family and help them settle into their new surroundings.
Here are a few things to be mindful of and help you with your feline parenthood in the first month of your kitten’s life.
Helping your kitten to settle in
Before you go to pick up your kitten you’ll need to already have the kitten’s essentials – this includes a bed, litter tray, food bowl and water bowl.
When a kitten is brought home for the first time it can be a very stressful time for them, they’ll not know where they are and may find their new home daunting or scary at first.
Let the kitten take as long as they like to get used to their new surroundings, making sure that their bed, litter tray and food/water bowls are fairly close and accessible – making it easier for them to learn where everything is.
To ensure that your kitten learns that the bed is their space, make sure it contains soft bedding and is placed in a part of your home that has no draught and is warm, dry and quiet – this is very important as it will provide them with a safe place to retreat when it all gets too much.
For the very first few nights why not place a warm hot water bottle (wrapped in a blanket) in your kitten’s bed to help with the absence of their mother and/or brothers and sisters.
When you first bring your kitten home you’ll need to keep them on the same food that they have been eating previously – if you abruptly change their diet then this, combined with the stress of getting used to a new home, can cause an upset stomach and diarrhoea.
If you’d like to change what your kitten is eating then you’ll have to do so gradually. A good way to do this is by mixing the new food with the food they’re used to, steadily increasing the new food and decreasing the original food as you go along.
Kittens have small stomachs and need to be fed often but with small portions. A kitten aged eight to twelve weeks should have four meals per day, if they are aged between three and six months they’ll need three meals per day and if they are over six months old they’ll need two meals per day.
The best way to give your kitten a balanced diet is to put them on a premium complete growth diet. You can purchase this kind of diet from a variety of companies and the food is specifically formulated for kittens, whose nutritional needs differ to that of an adult cat.
If you are feeding your kitten a completely dry diet then they can have access to it all times – provided you have no other animals that live with you. If you have them on a wet or mixed diet, then you’ll need to allocate set meal times, otherwise the wet food will go off if it’s left in the bowl for too long.
In terms of fluid you’ll need to provide fresh drinking water at all times and also avoid giving milk to your kitten as it can cause diarrhoea.
Cats are fastidious animals and most kittens usually learn how to use a litter tray by copying their mother. Many kittens will just need to be shown where their litter tray is and they’ll know to go to the toilet there.
The key to getting them to use the litter tray is to help them learn where it is – pop your kitten onto the tray when they awake from sleep, have finished a meal or are just looking like they need to go; tell-tale signs include beginning to crouch, scratching and sniffing.
Put the litter tray in a quiet, easy-to-reach corner where your kitten can go to the toilet in peace, making sure it isn’t near their food or water bowls as some kittens will not want to use the tray if it’s close to their food. Be sure to regularly clean out the tray, emptying the litter and washing the tray itself with hot water and detergent.
If your kitten is going to the toilet elsewhere around your home then you may need to keep them in one room until they learn to use the litter tray.
If they still don’t use it then it can be for a variety of reasons – the litter tray may not be clean enough, it may not be big enough, the detergent you use may be too strong-smelling, or they may not like the texture of the litter you’re using.
To get your kitten using the litter tray you may have to go through a trial and error process until you find the combination that they like.
Playtime and toys
Kittens are inquisitive little creatures and they’ll find lots of things to do as they grow and become more curious.
However, in the first few months they’ll need a lot of attention in regards to playing and interaction. Playing with your kitten is an integral part of your kitten’s life and will help develop a bond between you both, as well as keeping them healthy and happy.
There are thousands of cat toys available on the market but in general kittens will love anything that is light and small; many kittens will also love toys filled with cat nip.
Scratching-posts are great for keeping your kitten’s cognitive function active as well as satisfying their natural clawing instinct. Cover the post with material that isn’t found anywhere else around the house (such as string) so that your kitten learns not to scratch other items such as couches or carpets.
This article covers the very first few weeks of bringing your kitten home. See our other articles to discover what other things you’ll need to put in place as your kitten grows into the four to twelve weeks old stage including grooming, vaccinations, worming and flea treatments, neutering and microchipping.