Bringing a new kitten into your households can be an exciting adventure in many homes. However having a thorough understanding of the needs of your kitten to ensure you are adequately prepared for its arrival is essential.
Deciding where to purchase your kitten from and which kitten to actually choose should be considered carefully. Referrals from friends and family members about reputable breeders and pet stores can be of great assistance. The cattery/pet store should be clean and in the case of breeders the parents should be available to view. It is essential to question the people you are purchasing from about whether the kitten has been given an intestinal wormer and vaccination recently and to request documentation of this. These vaccinations are just the first in a series of vaccinations which will be required. Ask if the kitten has been microchipped for identification purposes before purchase in some states it is legislated that they must be microchipped prior to being offered for sale. The microchipping forms should be updated immediately to contain the new owner's contact details and a copy should be taken home with you.
Kitten Health Check
Although emotions tend to play a large role in choosing a new kitten, it is essential that you can assess the prospective kitten objectively. Amongst other things the kitten should be in good body condition, have clear, bright eyes, be alert, responsive and playful, and have no evidence of discharges from any part of its body or faecal staining around its anal region. The breeder or salesperson will be able to tell you which kittens are male and female if this is an important consideration for you. Note that any kitten being purchased as a pet should be desexed once old enough - your veterinarian will be able to discuss this with you.
Cat Food Especially for Kittens
You will need to purchase kitten food for your new kitten. Any sudden change in diet for a kitten can cause gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhoea so it is important to make gradual changes between what the kitten has been fed to date and the diet you have chosen for use at home. Ask what diet the kitten has been on, including the brand of cat food. Kittens should be fed high quality commercial kitten food. These foods are manufactured to meet the specific dietary requirements of growing kittens. Kittens have different dietary requirements to adult cats and different needs to dogs so they should only be fed kitten food. Numerous high quality products are available from veterinarians and pet produce suppliers. Kittens should not be fed cow's milk due to its lactose content which can cause diarrhoea in kittens. Specially formulated pet milk is ok but water is sufficient. Food and water pet bowls should be purchased which are strong, durable and easy to clean. To help reduce the number of cat fights in your household, it is suggested that your kitten be fed indoors.
Regular Pet Medications and Hygiene
Your kitten will need to be treated regularly for parasitic infestations. Intestinal worming should be done every 2 weeks till 12 weeks of age then every month till 6 months, then every 3 months thereafter. You will also need to consider preventatives for flea control and heartworm in endemic areas. Your veterinarian can advise you of appropriate products for your kitten. It is vital that the products chosen and doses given are appropriate for the age and size of your kitten.
It is recommended that you have ready access to your chosen veterinarians contact details. Keeping these details on hand will reduce stress if you need to contact them in an emergency situation. You should also contact your veterinarian as soon as you purchase a new kitten to organise a full health check and to discuss the health care needs of your kitten from this point onwards. Although your new kitten may have come with a vet check and vaccination it is still important to get them rechecked.
Many kittens will already be using litter for toileting at the time of purchase. You will need to set up an area for your kitten where this can be done. The area chosen should be quiet and provide some privacy. Litter trays are available which are enclosed to reduce mess from scratching in the tray and provide the much needed privacy many cats want. It is essential that litter trays be cleaned daily or whenever soiled to prevent the development of litter aversion behaviours whereby toileting can occur in unwelcome areas of the house. The litter chosen should be absorbent, comfortable for the kitten to stand in, and possibly contain an odour neutraliser.
Cat Sleeping and Pet Accessories
Early development of sleeping routines and sleeping location can help reduce the problem faced by owners of a kitten trying to sleep in their bed. Providing a soft, durable, washable pet bed in a quiet and contained location is suggested. In order to keep the kitten off the couches providing a day bed in the lounge or family room may be a good option. Many comfortable and stylish designs are available which will match the existing decor in many homes.
Providing an identification tag for your kitten is recommended. This allows rapid identification and contact of owners in the case of escape or injury. The tag can be placed on a cat collar. The pet collar chosen should be elasticised to allow the kitten to break free if it gets tangled or caught by it.
Kittens regularly sharpen their claws. Many owners will watch in horror as their beloved new kitten rapidly destroys their equally beloved couches! Providing a scratching post can help alleviate this problem. Teaching the kitten to use it can take some time but the use of catnip can help to attract the kitten to the post.
Pet Toys and Playtime
Providing adequate entertainment for a kitten is important to help reduce the likelihood of kittens causing damage to the owner's goods - and kittens do love to play! The appropriateness of the cat toys chosen needs to be taken into consideration. Although kittens will endlessly chase string and play with balls of wool, care must be taken with any product which can be swallowed by the kitten. When kittens swallow string, wool, cotton threads and the like, they can lodge in the gastrointestinal system and case the intestines to bunch up as the body tries unsuccessfully to expel it. These linear foreign bodies cause life threatening illness in kittens and cats. Purchasing kitten appropriate toys is strongly recommended. Any pet toy with a string attached should be checked regularly for any damage.
Cat Grooming and Cat Enclosures
Although cats are fastidious self groomers, all long haired cats should be brushed regularly. The development of matts in the hair can cause associated skin disease to develop. Having your kitten get used to this routine from as young as possible will help your kitten adjust and not resent this procedure as an adult cat. Cat grooming brushes, cat combs, mitts and gloves are available, so choosing the accessory most convenient for your use is easy.
Transportation of your kitten home after purchase and to all veterinary visits and boarding catteries throughout its life will necessitate the purchase of a cat travel carrier. These keep the cat contained within the car and also prevent them from escaping whilst walking from the car to and from your destination.
Purchasing a new kitten is an exciting time in many households. However owning a pet is a lifelong commitment so ensuring that you purchase your kitten with a thorough knowledge of what is required to provide a healthy and happy upbringing can make pet ownership much more enjoyable over the long term.