A Tail as Old as Time: How to Care for a Kitten
Well hello, kitty! There’s nothing quite like the love of a kitten. They haven’t quite developed that blasé behavior that we all love and adore just yet, so they’re still attempting to climb (aka claw at) your leg for endless cuddles.
If you’re considering getting yourself one of these cuddly companions, or you just welcomed one into your home, you might need a refresher on how to properly care for your new bundle of feline joy.
Here are some tips on how to make sure you kitten is smiling wider than the Cheshire Cat in those first few months:
Get in, kitties. We’re going to the vet.
When you first get your kitten, you want to pay a visit to your vet to check for parasites, fleas and other potential diseases. While your kitty may be in tip-top shape, it never hurts to go the extra mile in making sure they are happy and healthy. While there, take the time to discuss vaccinations as well as schedule a spaying or neutering appointment.
Kitties got to eat, Okpurrr (read in Cardi B’s voice).
Just as with a newborn child, you want to get your kitten on a feeding schedule. Offering them small meals can double as a daily stimulation that gets their cognition going. If they’re not with their mothers, consider feeding them a milk replacement – but avoid cow’s milk. Remember, kittens can begin the weaning process at 4 weeks. After 8 weeks, you can start to feed your kitten a variation of wet and dry food. What really matters is that you’re serving them enhanced kitten food that is rich in protein, calcium and other nutrients. Always make sure to have clean water ready for them so that they can wipe their meowth’s clean.
Suns out, paws out.
Have you ever seen a cat sunbathing in the window? It’s not to work on their tan. If you are ever grinding it out on your laptop and your kitten insists upon plopping down on the keys, it’s because they are searching for a warm spot to call their own. If you only have one kitten, look for ways to keep their little bodies warm. When you have two kittens, they will often cuddle with each other to find warmth (this is where we all say, “awwwww”). Cats have a higher thermoregulation zone, so kittens need to sustain that. Snagging a heating lamp, simple cat bed or heated cat bed can help keep your kitten baby warm.
Do we litter-ally have to talk about this?
If you’ve ever heard of the little thing called the internet, you’ve probably seen videos of cats using the toilet like humans – and not for consuming water (the cats, not the humans). However, when you get your kitten, make sure to get them a litter box and keep it close to where they lounge, preferably in the same room, so they can get used to using it. Kittens have an innate ability to properly use the bathroom and clean themselves, but it doesn’t hurt to look after them. And while we can rely on these self-cleaning felines to make sure they’re not getting dirty, kittens need a little assistance. Taking a washcloth and cleaning their paws and rear-ends will keep them clean and sanitary.
In or out, what’s it going to be?
When you bring your kitten home, you’re going to want to make sure he or she stays safe and indoors. However, when kittens turn a certain age, you can consider letting them roam outdoors. You want to make this decision at the earliest (yet safest) time. While cats were once wild roamers like Mufasa and Simba, they’re not used to life in the city. If you live in an urban area, they could be prone to dangerous risk factors in the city streets. The last thing you want is your cat getting caught up in the wrong scene, right? If you must take your cat outside, getting a leash and harness will be the perfect and smartest way to let him or her experience the great outdoors.
Make your kitten feel right at home.
It’s important for kittens to feel like they have a safe space. The early stages of a kitten’s life include them getting used to their surroundings. Setting up a space for them to hide when they get overwhelmed will make their lives so much better. Get a cat tree, make a cat cave in the closet and make your kitten feel like what’s yours is theirs, because let’s be honest – it is. Things like a scratch pad will also help make them feel like they can sharpen their claws in their own space without damaging your furniture. It’s a win for everybody.
I’ll go if I don’t have to talk to anyone! (Seinfeld fans, you still there?)
In the first 2 to 7 weeks, kittens go through their socialization window. Typically, they are still with their mothers or possibly at a shelter. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat the socialization process differently just because they’re outside of that environment. Introduce them to your familiar friends, other kittens/cats that may be in the house and get them used to a normal surrounding by setting an expectation for them. It’s also very important for you to play with your kittens! Try dangling a string or feather, or getting them a special stuffed animal to wrestle! This will help them exert energy and dominance. If there’s another animal in the house, chances are they will take care of this duty for you.
There’s a lot to consider when you’ve just brought home your new kitten. But at the end of the day, no kitten will be displeased if you’re feeding it good food, snuggling 24/7 and making sure that they feel right at home. And if you’re still trying to come up with a name, maybe consider Jude Claw, J.K. Meowling, or Kitty Purry?