When you buy or adopt a kitten, you can expect them to have their own personalities and create their own kind of mischief. But there are a few things to keep in mind before you bring your new pet home.
Your kitten will still be reaching milestones as they grow, even before you take them in. Here’s what you can expect from your cat before and after they come to live with you.
Kittens are born without sight or hearing but they also have no sense of smell. From the day they’re born they will suckle, and did you know a kitten will feed on the same teat throughout the time they are fed by their mom?
The kitten’s milk teeth are now making their way through their gums. Their eyes and ears are opening, and they can now start smelling the world around them. They’ll slowly start finding their feet while socialising with their littermates.
The cats will now be introduced to a new type of food, canned food. However, they can still nurse for a few weeks after this change.
This is also an important socialisation period, as they will be exposed to new people, pets and environments. This will help them prepare for the changes ahead of them as they get ready for their new homes.
Your kitten is now ready to come home to you and you’ll need to make sure they’re up to date with their vaccinations, flea and worming treatments.
They’ll be more active than ever, practising their hunting skills on toys and humans, and will now adopt the sleeping patterns of an adult cat.
Then, the real adventure begins. You’ll have to train your kitten so that they can learn how to behave, do tricks, and go to the toilet in the right places.
Watching your new cat grow is such a wondrous adventure, and it will have its ups and downs but persevere as the journey is truly magical and you’ll have a best friend for life in your new pet.
Preventing problems before they start
Kittens are a lot like children. They need a lot of outlets to stay occupied and prevent bad behavior. This is especially true for indoor kittens who can’t explore and hunt outdoors.
All of their energy needs to be directed into acceptable indoor options like playing, climbing, scratching, and socializing.
Encouraging safe and appropriate play activities from the first day in your home will make life much more pleasant for you and your cat.
Most of the physical activity of an outdoor cat is focused on the hunt, but indoor cats don’t have to worry about that. Instead, interactive play that satisfies the hunting instinct makes for a happy cat.
In fact, stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in kittens that help with proper muscular development, so these activities should be encouraged.
Provide predatory play sessions by playing together with wands, movable toys, or small lights. Chasing a toy attached to a wand or batting around a soft ball gives the cat needed outlet for his hunting instinct.
The best toys are lightweight and movable. Avoid toys that are small enough to be swallowed and keep string and ribbon out of reach. These items can cause serious intestinal problems if they are swallowed.
Serving food inside foraging toys and hiding treats inside boxes or paper bags is a great way to keep your cat’s interest in exploration alive (see Enrichment for Indoor Cats, Play and Play Toys, and Play and Investigative Behaviors).
In addition to play sessions with you, highly social and playful cats may also benefit from having a second social and playful cat in the home – provided a safe hierarchy has been established. In other words, all cats involved recognize the “top cat.”
How can I help my kitten enjoy physical contact?
Depending on his personality and early experiences as a kitten, your cat may either enjoy or dislike certain types of handling. In order for the cat to learn to accept and enjoy physical contact from people, it is critical that the human hand only be associated with positive experiences.
This means that physical punishment should not be used, as it will only teach the cat to fear and avoid contact with humans.
Start with the types of handling that your cat enjoys, like scratching him behind the ears. Talk to him in a gentle voice as you’re petting him. For cats who are reluctant to be handled, you may want to give a treat during petting sessions.
This technique can be applied to other types of handling, and it can help the cat become accustomed to–and maybe even enjoy–petting, grooming, teeth brushing, nail trimming, and even bathing.
How do I ensure that my cat is well socialized?
The socialization period for cats is crucial for their development, occurring between two and twelve weeks of age. A kitten’s experiences during this time will shape their attitude towards people, dogs, and other cats later in life.
If a kitten has positive interactions with these creatures, they are likely to be accepting of them as they grow older. However, if a kitten has no experience with these creatures or has negative experiences, they may become anxious or have aversions to them.
With a little work and patience, you will quickly become your new kitty’s best friend.
Interacting with your new cat regularly – and in the right way – will help form a bond between the two of you and turn them into a loyal friend.