Pet ownership has been on the rise for the last decade, growing an estimated 3% in the last year alone. Undoubtedly, the pandemic had an impact on acquiring new pets since more people had the time to give attention to a pet. Caring for a pet is a beautiful thing, especially when you can care for one their entire life. That’s why raising a kitten is such a wonderful experience. Kittens may not have as much energy as puppies, but it takes ample effort and a lot of love to care for one. Once you’ve decided if owning a pet is right for you, there are some steps to take to assure your kitten lives a happy and healthy life. If you are new to owning a cat, here are five practical tips for raising a kitten:
- Buy the right supplies
- Kitten-proof the house
- Build a loving bond
- Provide proper nutrition and hygiene
- Make trips to the vet
Buy the right supplies
Just like any other pet, one of the best tips for raising a kitten means buying the right pet supplies. While there are plenty of extras products that would spoil any cat, there are some necessary products to assemble before you bring your kitten home. Here is just a shortlist of some kitten essentials:
- Food and water bowls: Bowls are necessary for keeping meals consistent. Use two sets for having backups or one to clean while the other is in use.
- Cat food: Kittens require special food meant for their nutritional needs. We’ll go over what those needs look like in detail later on.
- Kitty litter and litter box: Having at least one litter box per cat and cleaning kitty litter daily is another kitten essential. Choose a box that’s related to their size and one with low-sided edges for them to enter and exit easily.
- Grooming tools: Tools like combs and brushes are important to start using on your kitten from a young age. Grooming needs can vary between breeds, but brushing your kitten will prevent cleaning up fur and dander on surfaces.
- Cat toys: Toys are a necessity for energetic kittens to learn not to play with household items. Introduce alternatives for kittens to climb or jump on, surfaces made for scratching, and “prey” to hunt like teaser toys and chaser toys.
- Cat bed: Cat beds can serve as hiding spots and comfortable spaces for kittens. Depending on where you get your kitten from, you may be able to use a blanket already familiar to them in a sleeping area. If your kitten isn’t using a bed that you’ve bought, watch how and where they sleep to see if there is a better bed you could provide.
- Identification: The American Humane Society recommends that every cat wear a collar to help kittens return home if necessary. Collars need to be replaced as cats grow up, but microchipping provides identification for a cat that will lead them back to their owner.
Kitten-proof the house
Another task to do before you bring a kitten home is “kitten-proofing” your home to keep them safe and healthy. Just like you would for a kid, put away cleaning supplies in a secure place they cannot get into. Electronic or hanging cords can pose danger to a small cat. Hide cords in sleeves or make them inaccessible for a kitten that otherwise might try to eat or attack them. If your kitten has access to a room with valuable objects, guarantee there’s no way the objects could be broken or damaged. Finally, remove any of these indoor plants toxic to cats that they might try to eat.
To prevent kittens from getting in places they don’t need to be, a common practice is restricting their living quarters. An extra room or closet is where all of your kitten products can be found where no one can disturb them. Once they are accustomed to their smaller space, introduce a kitten to new rooms while keeping an eye out. This method prevents a new pet from becoming overwhelmed by new spaces.
Build a loving bond
Raising a kitten with care leads to them maturing into a socialized, loving cat. They should be accepting of human touch and not afraid of help. By providing care and spending quality time with your pet, over time there will be a strong bond between you and your cat. Balance high energy playtimes with gentile times that soothe them to sleep. Additionally, showing them consistent, loving physical touch like petting, lightly scratching, and holding them close leads to a trusting relationship.
Another type of bonding experience is training your kitten. Redirecting behaviors that need changing and rewarding positive behavior to continue. Kittens will know when they do something good when their owner provides them encouragement, physical touch, and treats. Repeating tasks for your kitten will eventually lead them to form habits on their own. It takes patience and commitment to maintain consistent habits, but it’s a crucial part of raising a kitten.
Provide proper nutrition and hygiene
Properly feeding and keeping your kitten healthy and clean is a trait of a responsible pet owner. As we previously mentioned, kittens have dietary needs different from adult cats. Near the beginning of their lives, kittens should be eating at least 3-4 times a day until they are 12 weeks old. They eat more often to fuel their growth and development, which is why kittens need highly nutritious, veterinarian-approved food. Keep feeding them whatever they were being fed beforehand to not upset their digestive system. Afterward, slowly introduce combinations of wet, dry, or a combination of kitten foods. Healthy kitten food should be high in protein and list meat in its first three ingredients.
A kitten’s hygiene includes grooming and washing. Kittens require their fur brushed on a weekly basis depending on the length of their fur. Once your kitten’s claws have hardened, it’s time to start trimming their claws once a month. Reinforce the positive experience by rewarding them with treats or given their paws a massage. When it comes to cleaning habits, kittens can be reliant on themselves until the eight-week mark. Instead of giving baths at young ages, use wet wipes made for cat’s fur to get rid of food, dirt, and excess hair.
Make trips to the vet
The last aspect of raising a kitten we will mention is routinely bringing them to the vet. Once you have found the best vet clinic for your needs, bring your new kitten in as soon as possible for a checkup. After running general health tests, the veterinarian will suggest a vaccination schedule for the kitten’s first year of life. There may be some voluntary vaccines and treatments to opt into at the vets. Deworming and applying topical flea treatments are key for raising a kitten in the best health. Between 2 and 6 months old is the ideal time for your kitten to be spayed or neutered. This preserves the reproductive health of your kitten and controls the pet population.
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