YOUR NEW HOME FOR A KITTEN
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
most useful cat baskets are made of lightweight plastic or fibreglass.
Wicker carriers may be more attractive but they are draughty and hard to
AND WATER BOWLS
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, 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
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.
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!
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.
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 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!
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 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
OF YOUR NEW KITTEN
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.
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
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
TO PICK UP YOUR CAT
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.
ALONG WITH OTHER PETS
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.
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.
you have birds or fish, the situation will be the reverse, and
appropriate precaution should be taken to protect them from harm by your
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
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 your kitten, you should keep these factors in mind:
your kittenís privacy. Donít disturb her while sheís eating.
and water bowls should be placed in a quiet, out-of-the-way place
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.
your kittenís water dish at least six feet away from her food.
That way she wonít learn to associate water only with eating.
a bowl that your kitten cannot tip over easily. Clean her food
dishes at each meal and water dishes daily.
a general rule, follow the feeding instructions that come with your
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.
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
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
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.
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
and your cats, when treated correctly, grow up to be happier, more
curious and sure of themselves.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
of the following may be symptoms of illness:
weight loss or gain
in colour or condition of skin
in urination or blood in urine
or patchy coat
or loss of appetite
or odd behaviour
or watery eyes, nasal discharge
FOR GIVING MEDICATION TO YOUR KITTEN
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
the case of minor external bleeding, cover the wound with gauze or a
clean handkerchief and apply direct pressure with your fingers.
(see our page on poisons)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
who groom themselves often, especially long haired cats, are likely to
develop furballs. These are loose hairs that gradually accumulate in the
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
some advanced cases may call for more drastic attention, your
veterinarian will probably prescribe medication which may be
administered at home.
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.
should approach training a step at a time, continually rewarding desired
actions and offering no encouragement for bad behaviour.
YOUR KITTEN TO COME WHEN CALLED
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.
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.
WITH YOUR CAT
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.
YOUR CAT BEHIND
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.
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.
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.
wait until the last minute to find a responsible boarding establishment
and make sure that your kittenís immunisation record is completely
WITH YOUR KITTEN
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.
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.
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.