Things Kittens Need

Basic First Aid Feeding Guidelines
First Days Grooming Healthcare
Play & Excercise Training Travelling with your kitten

 

PREPARING YOUR NEW HOME FOR A KITTEN

 

Before you bring your kitten home, think carefully about possible hazards in her environment. These include electrical wires, sharp utensils, needles, plastic bags, detergents and poisonous plants. A small kitten can find her way into surprising places, so be careful to keep dangerous objects out of range.

 

Also keep in mind that many commonly used cat toys such as yarn, string, rubber bands, aluminium foil and cellophane can be dangerous if they are accidentally swallowed. Your kitten should play with such objects only with your supervision.

 

THINGS KITTENS NEED

 

It will help to have certain basic supplies already waiting when your kitten comes home. All of these are readily available and relatively inexpensive; some may even be improvised from household odds and ends.

 

BEDS AND BEDDING

 

The most important thing you can do to make your new kitten feel at home is to have a corner already furnished with a basket and cushion.

 

Cat beds come in many varieties, from elaborate cat beds sold at pet stores to home-made wooden boxes. The size of your catís bed should be in proportion to her adult size. Bear in mind, though, that cats prefer to sleep curled up rather than stretched out in a large space.

 

For your kittenís first bed, a corrugated cardboard box with sides about twelve inches high will suffice. The high sides will help her feel more secure and will also help to keep out draughts. Cut out a doorway in the front and line the box with a pillow or cushion covered in washable fabric. Place the bed in a warm, quiet corner of your home.

 

Donít be disappointed however if your kitten doesnít prefer your chosen sleeping place. It may take a bit of experimentation to arrive at sleeping quarters that both you and your kitten agree on!

 

CATS BASKETS/CARRIERS

 

A cat carrier is essential, even if you plan to travel no further with your kitten than the veterinary surgery. Most pet stores stock a variety of travelling baskets. Look for one that will be roomy, well ventilated, escape proof and easy to clean. Be sure to choose a quality basket. Avoid baskets or cages that have sharp, exposed edges that could injure your kitten or protrusions that could snag your kittenís collar and choke her.

 

The most useful cat baskets are made of lightweight plastic or fibreglass. Wicker carriers may be more attractive but they are draughty and hard to clean.

 

FOOD AND WATER BOWLS

 

Youíll need two heavy ceramic, stainless steel or glass bowls; one for food and one for water. Fresh water should be available to your kitten at all times and her dishes should be washed after every meal.

 

LITTER TRAY

 

A litter tray, cat litter and a scoop are essential. Even if your kitten has access to an outdoor area, she should not be let out until she has adjusted to her new home (this also applies when moving home). Her litter tray should always be accessible and easy to find. Choose a box that is deep enough to keep your kitten from scattering litter when she digs. Itís best to use about two inches of litter in the bottom of the tray.

 

Commercial litter doesnít have to be changed every day; just use the scoop to remove the wet patches and faeces and replace them with fresh litter. You should, however, wash the litter tray once a week with hot water. Be careful; some disinfectants can be toxic, and your kitten may be repelled by their scent.

 

Although shredded newspaper may appear to be a cost effective alternative to commercial cat litter, it absorbs soil and odour less effectively and is harder to clean up. Moreover, it can encourage your kitten to use newspaper not intended for the purpose!

 

Pregnant women need to be aware of toxoplasmosis, a disease carried by cats that can cause birth defects. Toxoplasmosis is a disease that afflicts people as well as pets. But the cat is the only animal known to expel the parasite in its faeces. If pregnant, you should use gloves while handling the litter tray and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Your kitten can be kept free of infection by feeding her only commercial food and keeping her indoors.

 

BRUSHES AND COMBS

 

Grooming should be a regular part of your catís routine. Although your kitten will probably want to make a game of it and try to bite the brush and comb this is an essential part of her care; especially in the summer months when fleas are prevalent.

 

SCRATCHING POSTS

A scratching post will give your kitten a place to stretch and exercise as well as keeping her claws in good condition. It will also help to prevent her from using your furniture to satisfy these needs!

 

Most pet stores offer a variety of scratching posts, but you can easily construct one of your own by covering an appropriate piece of wood with carpet, tree bark or coiled rope. If you use carpet, make sure it is not the deep pile kind; the fluffy surface canít offer enough resistance for your catís claws (it is also important to bear in mind that a cat will not withdraw itís claws, it will keep on pulling and eventually pull itís claw out if it canít get free). The post may be mounted on a wall or made free-standing by attaching it to a sturdy wooden base.

 

 

FIRST DAYS

 

The first days of your kittenís life in her new home are important in building a happy relationship between your kitten and her adopted Ďfamilyí. For that reason, itís best not to introduce your kitten to your household during particularly busy times (i.e. during building work). A new kitten needs a quiet environment and lots of care from her new owners.

 

ARRIVAL OF YOUR NEW KITTEN

 

When you bring your new kitten into your home for the first time, sheíll probably be a little apprehensive. If she seems phased it is best to keep her in one room until sheís gown accustomed to it, before opening the door to allow her to roam through the rest of your home. Give your kitten plenty of attention and be prepared to spend time playing with her while she becomes acquainted with her new home.

 

EXPLORING

 

A new kitten needs time to settle into her new surroundings. During her first weeks in her new home, she should be allowed some quiet time to explore each room thoroughly. Only after she has grown accustomed to her indoor environment and has adjusted to a regular feeding schedule should you consider allowing her to venture outdoors. If you acquire a kitten during the winter, you should wait for warmer weather before allowing her outside.

 

Whether or not your kitten should be permitted access to the outdoors is an individual decision. Although she will have more opportunity for exercise, she will almost certainly be exposed to many more dangers, such as traffic and dogs. Whatever your choice, you should decide early on; once a cat has been given outdoor freedom, she will not easily be confined thereafter.

 

HOW TO PICK UP YOUR CAT

 

Pick up your cat by placing one hand under the chest behind the front legs. Place the other hand under her hindquarters to support her weight and lift the cat into the crook of your arm.

 

GETTING ALONG WITH OTHER PETS

 

If you already have another pet, you should take special care in introducing them to your new kitten. If the two pets meet accidentally, they could become life long enemies. It is probably best to confine your other pet while your kitten explores her new surroundings. Once sheís learned to find her way around the house, the best time for her to meet an existing pet is at mealtime. Each animal should be given its own dish, well apart from the other. It is likely that your older pet will not even notice the newcomer until after she has finished feeding, and the encounter is likely to be more relaxed all round.

 

The younger the existing pet, the better will be the chances of peaceful co-existence. You should be prepared to break up a fight, however, if one develops. If your resident pet is an adult dog, you should probably keep him on a lead or confine the kitten in a wire cage. A dog can seriously injure a small kitten with one snap of his jaws.

 

If you have birds or fish, the situation will be the reverse, and appropriate precaution should be taken to protect them from harm by your kitten.

 

FEEDING YOUR KITTEN

 

A kittenís nutritional requirements are more demanding than those of an adult cat. A high quality meat protein food will provide the proteins and other nutrients that are essential during this important growth stage.

 

Feed your kitten half her recommended daily portion in the morning and half in the evening. Remember that the amount may vary according to age, temperament and activity level of your kitten.

 

FEEDING TIPS:

 

When feeding your kitten, you should keep these factors in mind:

  • Respect your kittenís privacy. Donít disturb her while sheís eating.

  • Food and water bowls should be placed in a quiet, out-of-the-way place

  • Be sure your kitten has fresh water at all times, especially during warmer weather. Frequent drinking will help your kitten keep her system healthy and may help to reduce the risk of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease.

  • Place your kittenís water dish at least six feet away from her food. That way she wonít learn to associate water only with eating.

  • Use a bowl that your kitten cannot tip over easily. Clean her food dishes at each meal and water dishes daily.

  • As a general rule, follow the feeding instructions that come with your pet food.

  • Be flexible. Feeding instructions are only guidelines. Cats generally regulate their eating habits according to their needs. The amount of food your kitten needs will vary with age, weight, breed, temperament, environment and activity level.

  • If you use a dry food you can leave a recommended daily quantity in your kittenís dish and let her choose her own meal times. Cats seldom over-eat unless they are routinely tempted with large amounts of food.

  • Although some owners choose to supplement commercial cat foods with milk, this should never be necessary if the commercial food is nutritionally balanced and complete. Moreover, most cats cannot properly digest the lactose in milk and may develop flatulence or diarrhoea.

PLAY AND EXERCISE

 

PLAYTIME FOR KITTENS

 

Kittens seem to live to play. Actually, each day is an important adventure which helps the kitten in her development of intelligence, dexterity, and her relationships with humans and other animals. The mother cat generally provides the stimulation for kittenís development. But you and your family can have a great effect on the temperament and emotional development of your kitten.

 

Play and exercise are important for your kittenís development. Buy her a toy - a ball, rubber mouse, or anything she can play with and not be injured. Her hunting instincts will develop; her reflexes will become sharp.

 

Kittens and your cats, when treated correctly, grow up to be happier, more curious and sure of themselves.

 

KITTENS AND CHILDREN

 

A cat can make many contributions to a childís personal growth. She can help to instil a sense of nurturing and personal responsibility in children. Yet parents should not use a pet merely as a tool to teach children responsibility. Children may gradually assume more of a role in caring for your kitten, but they should always do so under your supervision.

 

Young children can often hurt a small animal because they fail to realise what can cause pain to her. It will not occur to a small child that picking up a kitten by one of itís legs, or pulling itís tail or making loud noises around her can actually hurt the animal. You should explain such things to them well before the kittenís arrival in your home. But, particularly with very young children, supervision is essential at all times.

 

HEALTH CARE

 

Although cats are generally more resistant to illness than many other pets, they are constantly exposed to many health hazards, both from disease and from physical hazards in their environment.

 

As a cat owner, you can help to ensure a long and healthy life for your pet by keeping her on a regular schedule of preventative medical care and by keeping a sharp eye out for dangers that she may encounter.

 

EYES AND EARS

 

From time to time, your catís eyes may have tears, or you may notice some dried discharge in the corner of her eyes. This is not usually cause for alarm; the tears or discharge may be wiped away with a tissue dampened with warm water. If the tearing or discharge seem excessive, yellowish or mucus-like, you should check with your veterinarian.

 

You should check your catís ears regularly. Clean dirty ears carefully with cotton wool dipped in water. If you notice that your kitten is constantly shaking her head or scratching her ears, the problem may be ear mites. If diagnosed promptly, ear mites can usually be eliminated with ear drops. Ask your veterinarian.

 

TEETH

 

Teeth should be examined regularly for tartar and inflamed gums. Feeding a dry food can prevent some dental problems. If you kitten has bad breath, salivates excessively or has difficulty eating, she may have a dental problem. Again, consult your veterinarian.

 

SYMPTOMS OF ILLNESS

 

If you spend time with your kitten every day, you will quickly get to know her normal personality, behaviour and feeding routine. Changes in these usually indicate that something may be wrong with your kitten.

 

Any of the following may be symptoms of illness:

  • Excessive thirst

  • Sudden weight loss or gain

  • Changes in colour or condition of skin

  • Diarrhoea

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Difficulty in urination or blood in urine

  • Dull or patchy coat

  • Fever

  • Lack or loss of appetite

  • Sluggishness or odd behaviour

  • Red or watery eyes, nasal discharge

  • Vomiting

TIPS FOR GIVING MEDICATION TO YOUR KITTEN

 

Most pet owners will probably have to administer medication to their pet sooner or later. You should always ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the proper method for administering medication, but here are a few tips:

 

PILLS AND LIQUIDS

If you need to give your kitten pills or capsules, place her on your lap and lift her head up. Press on the corners of the mouth to pry it open and push the medication as far back on the tongue as possible. Hold your kittenís mouth shut and stroke her throat with your free hand to make her swallow.

 

Liquid medications may be administered with a plastic syringe. Tilt her head up, insert the syringe tip into the space between your kittenís cheek and her back molars and slowly but deliberately squirt the liquid into her mouth.

EYE MEDICATIONS

To apply eye medications hold the catís head firmly, using the thumb and forefinger to open the eyelid. With the other hand, apply the ointment or eyedrops to the centre of the eye, taking care not to touch the eye with the tube or dropper.

EAR

MEDICATIONS

Ear medications should be applied by holding the kitten firmly and turning the head to one side. Once the medicine is in the ear, massage gently to help spread it into the ear canal.

 

SPAYING AND NEUTERING

 

One decision every cat owner must face is whether to spay or neuter. Unless you plan to breed your cat professionally, you and your cat will probably be happiest together if he or she is neutered or spayed. Whether male or female, the operation is safe.

 

Neutered cats seldom suffer the sexual stresses of unneutered cats. Males usually will not spray your walls and furniture with urine; females will not become highly strung and jumpy when they are in season.

FEMALE

 

While opinion varies, the best time to spay a female is probably just after her first heat, usually between six months and one year (although some breeds take as much as 18 months to mature). At this stage, the organs may be removed without altering the catís basic physical make-up. Your veterinarian can advise you on the best timing for your cat.

 

The operation usually requires a day at the surgery followed by a few days of quiet recuperation at home. Sometimes an overnight stay may be necessary, do not panic as your veterinarian will advise you.

 

MALE

 

For males, the best time to neuter is when the odour of the urine changes to a more pungent smell, an indication that the kitten has sexually matured. The age range for males is also usually between eight months and a year. For males, the operation is simpler; you can usually drop your kitten off in the morning and pick him up the same evening. His physical appearance will not be greatly altered, since the operation removes on the testes, not the scrotum.

 

BASIC FIRST AID

 

Despite your best efforts to keep your kitten from harm, accidents will happen, and itís best to be prepared when they do. Itís important to remain calm, act swiftly and get your kitten to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

 

ACCIDENTS

 

A cat who has been hit by a car or has fallen from a great height should be taken to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Pick her up as gently as possible, avoiding any excess movement of her body. If the cat is lying calmly on her side scoop her up with one hand under the chest and the other under the hips. Be careful not to twist the body. Put the cat on a clean towel or newspaper in a cat carrier or cardboard box. Put a soft blanket or towel over the cat to keep her warm and protect her from shock.

 

In the case of minor external bleeding, cover the wound with gauze or a clean handkerchief and apply direct pressure with your fingers.

 

POISONING (see our page on poisons)

 

Unless you have seen your cat consume the poison, poisoning may be very difficult to diagnose. In almost every case, you are better off trying to get your cat to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. If you can identify the poison, you should try to bring a sample of it (or itís container) with you to the surgery.

 

Some poisons cause shock. For this reason, you should try to keep the cat warm by wrapping it in a towel or blanket while you seek veterinary help. A cat in pain is apt to be violent and wrapping her in a towel will also help to restrain her.

 

DROWNING

 

A drowned cat may sometimes be revived by mouth-to-nose resuscitation. To perform, close the catís mouth and gently but repeatedly blow puffs of air into both nostrils by covering them with pursed lips. Allow air to escape by removing your mouth between puffs. You should notice the catís chest rising slightly as you blow.

 

BURNS

 

The most important part of first aid for burns is to prevent shock and to get the cat to a veterinarian promptly. Heat burns may be treated by promptly dousing the injured area with cold water and applying a cold compress. Electrical burns - common with young cats who like to chew through electrical wires - can result in shock and cardiac arrest. In extreme cases, artificial respiration and cardiac massage may be necessary. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

 

GROOMING

 

Although cats work hard to keep themselves clean, you should supplement your catís hygiene with regular grooming sessions to keep her coat free from parasites, dandruff, loose hair and tangles.

 

BATHING

 

If you plan to bath your kitten, itís important to accustom her to the routine at an early age. A first bath can be a disconcerting experience, so you may want to find someone to help hold your kitten during the ordeal.

 

Put a rubber mat or towel in the bottom of a basin or large bowl and fill it with a shallow amount of warm water. While holding the kitten firmly, wet her body starting with the head. Shampoo your kitten with a cat or pet shampoo, being careful not to get lather in her eyes or ears. Rinse her gently with warm water and dry her with a towel. She should be kept out of draughts until her coat is thoroughly dried.

 

BRUSHING AND COMBING

 

Cats should be groomed on a newspaper or other disposable surface to collect any loose hair or debris. As you groom, you should check carefully for ticks and fleas. If you have not had previous experience in combating these parasites you should consult your veterinarian or breeder promptly. They can suggest an effective course of action.

 

FURBALLS

 

Cats who groom themselves often, especially long haired cats, are likely to develop furballs. These are loose hairs that gradually accumulate in the stomach.

 

Usually furballs are regurgitated or eliminated through the intestines. If they are not, however, your cat may become unable to nourish herself properly. She will make frequent trips to her feeding dish but consume only a few mouthfuls at a time. Gradually, she will begin to lose weight.

 

Although some advanced cases may call for more drastic attention, your veterinarian will probably prescribe medication which may be administered at home.

 

TRAINING

 

Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained - although it does take a little patience! The most important rule to remember is that rewards are much more effective than punishment. The delicate relationship between you and your kitten can easily be damaged by punishing her for misbehaviour. A stern "no" can be effective, but more physical expressions of disapproval are almost invariably counter-productive.

 

You should approach training a step at a time, continually rewarding desired actions and offering no encouragement for bad behaviour.

 

TEACHING YOUR KITTEN TO COME WHEN CALLED

 

No kitten will come to an owner if she expects to be punished. Only love and reward can persuade your kitten to come when you call her name.

 

Use your kittenís name regularly at mealtimes and play sessions. Once she begins to associate her name with pleasant experiences, try adding the word "come" just after it. Use this technique just before you set down her feeding dish. Once she has begun to grasp the meaning of the new command, reinforce her behaviour with a reward and affection.

 

TRAVELLING WITH YOUR CAT

 

All cat owners have to cope with the problem of what to do when they are away from home. If your trip is brief, you may decide to take your kitten along with you; in other circumstances, you will probably want to leave her in someone elseís care.

 

LEAVING YOUR CAT BEHIND

 

If you decide to leave your kitten behind when you travel, the best solution is to have a reliable friend check on your kitten in your own home two or three times a day.

 

Boarding a kitten can be stressful to her, since she will be in unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar animals. If you need to use a cattery, you should find one where you can establish a comfortable, long-term relationship. Introduce your kitten to it while she is young; older cats donít adjust to unaccustomed surroundings very well.

 

A cattery should provide an individual area for sleeping and exercise. It should be very well heated and ventilated and spotlessly clean. Insist that your cat be fed her regular brand of cat food during her stay, to prevent undue stress to her system. Many catteries will permit you to bring your catís own bed and toys; these will help her to better adjust to her surroundings.

 

Donít wait until the last minute to find a responsible boarding establishment and make sure that your kittenís immunisation record is completely up-to-date.

 

TRAVELLING WITH YOUR KITTEN

 

Accustom your kitten to travel when she is young, even if you do not expect to travel with her often in the future. Even the occasional trip to the veterinarian will be more pleasant if your kitten has been exposed to the routine of travelling with you.

 

Whether you use your car or take public transport, a cat carrier is an essential piece of equipment. Introduce it to your kitten at an early age and let her become accustomed to going in and out of it. If the cat complains about being in the carrier talk to her in a calming voice but do not let her out under any circumstances.

 

Avoid leaving your kitten in the car, even for a short while. In the summer, temperatures inside a parked car can rise to fatal extremes in only minutes. If you must leave the kitten in your car in hot weather, park in the shade and roll the windows down. Merely opening them a little wonít provide adequate ventilation.