kittens are adorable and it can be tempting to take one home
without thinking of the consequences. Remember that just like
children they can be destructive and very demanding. Taking
on a kitten means that you are committing yourself to about
14 years of caring for a cat and some live well into their
teens and 20s.
I care for a cat?
care for a cat you will need to:
plenty of human companionship
regular, suitable meals with a constant supply of fresh
a clean and comfortable bed
the cat with outdoor access or be prepared to empty and
clean a litter tray on a daily basis
it regularly. Longhaired cats require daily grooming
it neutered between 4 and 6 months old
against the major feline diseases regularly
regularly and provide treatment for fleas
the cat to the vet when it shows any sign of illness -
pet insurance can help offset the cost of veterinary treatment.
the kitten home
to a new home is very stressful for a kitten. Give it reassurance
and time to adjust to the new surroundings before making introductions
to other animals in the household. Make sure all the doors
and windows are closed and that there is a guard in front
of the fireplace (a dark quiet chimney can be very inviting
to a nervous kitten). Make sure that the kitten knows where
the bed, litter tray and food bowls are.
kittens' bed should be a refuge to retreat to if things become
too stressful. It needs to be warm, dry, comfortable and draught
free. There are many types of bed to choose from or you can
put some warm bedding inside a strong dry cardboard box with
a hole cut in the side. Putting it in a warm secure corner
(near a radiator in the winter) will make it welcoming and
the kitten feel secure. On the first few nights a warm water
bottle under a blanket may help to compensate for the absence
of the kitten's mother or littermates. If you happen to have,
or can borrow, a large pen (a kittening pen or the type of
metal pen used to hold dogs securely in the back of a car)
this is ideal for providing a safe den for the kitten and
can hold its litter tray and bed. It is also an excellent
way to introduce other animals.
other pets and children
to other household residents should be gradual, gentle and
very quiet. Excited children can easily injure a kitten unintentionally
so always supervise play and do not allow the kitten to be
picked up unnecessarily. Children should be encouraged to
sit on the floor and wait for the kitten to explore them.
Make sure that the kitten is allowed to stop playing when
it wants to and is not treated like a toy. Kittens, like many
young animals, will need a lot of sleep and should be allowed
time to rest.
a kitten to a dog or cat needs to be undertaken carefully
to avoid conflict. A bad experience can be difficult to overcome.
If you have a large mesh pen in which the kitten can sit safely
while the resident cat or dog can gradually get used to it,
this is an ideal way to make introductions. Some dogs, especially
those not used to cats or of an exciteable or aggressive disposition,
need extra special care for introductions. They should be
kept as calm as possible on the lead and made to sit quietly.
The new kitten should be given a safe position in the room
and allowed to get used to the dog and approach if it wants.
This may take quite some time and requires patience and rewards
for the dog if it behaves well. For quieter dogs or those
used to cats, introductions can be made using a strong cat
carrier. Keep the dog on a lead initially, place the carrier
on a high surface and allow controlled introductions which
are short and frequent. Most dogs will soon calm down when
they realise the newcomer is not actually very interesting.
Progress to meetings with the dog on a lead initially for
safety. Do not leave the kitten alone with resident dogs or
cats until it is well established. More details on introducing cats...
you first take a kitten home feed it on the same food it has
been used to. A sudden change of diet combined with the stress
of adapting to a new home can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea.
If you want to change the diet, do so gradually by mixing
it with the kitten's usual food. Kittens have small stomachs
and have to be fed little and often, like babies. It can be
very difficult to put together a homemade diet which provides
all the nutrients required by growing kittens - it is a great
deal easier to feed a good quality commercial kitten food
and spend the time playing with the kitten instead! There
are foods which have been specially formulated for kittens
because they have different nutritional needs to the fully
grown cat. Read and follow the feeding instructions carefully.
If the food is marked 'complete' it contains everything the
kitten needs to stay healthy. If it is marked 'complementary'
it does not supply all the kitten needs and should be fed
with other foods.
aged 8-12 weeks need four meals a day, 3-6 months three meals,
and kittens over 6 months old, two meals. You may want to
provide some dry food on an ad lib basis - it depends very
much on your lifestyle, what your kitten likes and is used
to and if you have other cats in the house with certain feeding
routines and habits.
not give your kitten cow's milk as it can cause diarrhoea.
If you wish to feed milk use one that is specially formulated
for cats. Diarrhoea that persists for more than 24 hours requires
veterinary attention. Fresh drinking water should be available
at all times.
are very fussy about their toilet habits and kittens will
usually have learnt to use a litter tray by copying their
mother. You may just need to show your new kitten where the
litter tray is and place it on the tray on waking up from
a sleep and after meals, or when the kitten is sniffing, scratching
or beginning to crouch and looks as if it is about to go!
will need a plastic litter tray which can be filled with sand,
peat or cat litter available from pet shops. Earth from the
garden should never be used for unvaccinated kittens as it
may harbour diseases from other cats which have used it as
a toilet. The tray should be placed on newspaper to catch
any litter pushed over the side during digging - a large tray
will prevent such problems. If you intend to let your kitten
out to use the garden in the future then a simple open tray
will suffice for the few weeks involved. If you intend the
cat to continue to use the tray then you may want to purchase
one of the covered types with a lid which gives the cat more
privacy, stops smells from escaping and prevents mess with
the tray in a quiet accessible corner where your kitten will
not be disturbed. Make sure that the litter tray is not next
to food and water bowls. The kitten may be reluctant to use
the litter tray if it is too close to its food.
litter tray must be kept clean and emptied regularly. Some
disinfectants (like Dettol) which go cloudy in water are toxic
to cats, so use only hot water and detergent when cleaning
out the tray or ensure you use a cat-friendly disinfectant
such as bleach which has been diluted as the manufacturer
recommends and the tray rinsed thoroughly before use.
your kitten is inclined to mess elsewhere in the house, confine
it to one room with a litter tray until the kitten learns
to use it regularly. Place the kitten on the litter tray a
short time after it has eaten or when it is sniffing, scratching,
beginning to crouch and generally showing signs of looking
for a suitable corner to use as a toilet.
the kitten is reluctant to use the tray it could be because:
is not clean enough - empty it more often
is not big enough - it should be big enough for an adult
cat to turn around in and to use more than once without
have cleaned it out with a chemical that is too strong
is too near the bed or food bowls
kitten does not like the texture of the litter you have
chosen - revert to the type it has used before. More information on soiling
your kitten starts to go outside more often, gradually move
the litter tray towards the door. A few handfuls of cat litter
from the tray spread onto well dug soil in the garden will
encourage the kitten to dig there. Do not remove the litter
tray from indoors until your kitten has started using the
kitten should not be allowed outside until at least a week
after it has finished its first course of vaccinations at
about 13 - 14 weeks old (depending on the vaccine). Once it
is fully vaccinated and has become used to life in your house,
you can start to let your kitten go outside. Choose a dry
day (if possible) and a quiet time and accompany your kitten
outside, allowing it to explore the new environment. Continue
to accompany the kitten until it is used to your garden and
can find its way back to the house without difficulty. It
is best not to leave your kitten outside alone until it is
6 months old.
like to come and go as they please. A cat flap allows them
to do this. If you fit a cat flap you won't need a litter
tray indoors when the kitten grows up. You can teach your
kitten to use a cat flap by propping it open initially and
enticing it through with food. Gradually close it down so
the kitten learns to push the flap. If you already own a cat
be aware that the kitten may watch and learn and let itself
outside before you are ready - kittens learn quickly by watching
prevent neighbourhood cats from coming into your house, you
can buy a cat flap which will only open for your cat. The
flap is operated by magnetic or electronic keys on your cat's
your kitten becomes older (over 6 months old) you may like
to fit a collar on so that he has some form of identification
or to carry a magnet or 'key' to an electronic cat flap -
never put on a collar just for the sake of wearing one. Collars
must be fitted carefully - kittens are very active and inquisitive
while growing up and can easily get the collar hooked on a
tree branch or fence or the kitten can get its front leg caught
up in the collar and injuries can occur. 'Snap open' collars
will reduce the likelihood of the cat becoming entangled should
a problem occur. For a young, rapidly growing cat you will
need to remember to check the collar's fit (you should be
able to get one or two fingers under the collar) and increase
its size accordingly. Flea collars are not the best way to
deal with flea problems and can be an added danger to curious
kittens intent on climbing or squeezing into small spaces
where they may get caught up. You may also want to consider
having your cat microchipped for identification purposes.
in the home
are very inquisitive creatures and will investigate small,
dark places which they can crawl into. For this reason, should
your kitten go missing for any length of time, you should
look in cupboards, wardrobes, outside sheds etc in case it
has accidentally been shut in or got stuck.
the washing machine and tumble dryer door shut when not in
use and check them before putting the clothes in.
your kitten is a plant nibbler then remove any plants which
may be poisonous, for example Dieffenbachia (dumb cane), Poinsettia,
Lily of the Valley, Christmas Cherry, Castor Oil plant, Avocado
plant, rubber plant and ivy. Most cats will not touch such
plants but kittens may be more inquisitive.
you live in a flat above ground level or have a house with
several storeys keep the windows shut to ensure that kittens
do not fall out.
keep garden chemicals stored safely and take care if using
slug bait or chemicals on the garden itself - some types can
be very toxic to animals.
are very playful. Give them an assortment of toys to keep
them occupied and exercised - these need not be expensive
- every kitten loves a cardboard box to play in. Play is also
a good way for you to get to know and trust each other. Provide
your kitten with a scratching post.
your cat in good health
is a good idea to accustom your kitten to being groomed from
an early age, particularly if it has a long coat. A long-haired
cat needs daily attention to keep fur free of tangles. Grooming
removes excess loose hairs which can cause fur balls to build
up in the stomach. Combing and brushing will help remove these
hairs and it is usually appreciated by the cat, provided it
has been accustomed to grooming early in life. Grooming also
gives you a chance to keep a close eye on your cat, asses
its health and help to develop the bond between you. Always
be gentle and make grooming a rewarding and pleasant experience.
provide protection against potentially fatal infections such
a feline infectious enteritis and feline influenza, kittens
need to be vaccinated. The first injection in the course is
given at 8 to 9 weeks old and a second at about 12 weeks.
The kitten should be kept away from other cats and stay indoors
for 10 days after the second injection to ensure maximum protection.
keep up the level of protection provided by vaccination, adult
cats require regular boosters (usually one every one to three
years). Your vet will tailor the vaccination programme according
to the risks of the various diseases in your area. In cities,
where there is a high density of cats, the risk of infection
will be higher. More
information on vaccination..
can make kittens weak. Kittens should be treated against roundworms
at 4-6 weeks and then regularly every 2 - 3 weeks until they
are 4 months old. After this worming they should be treated
for roundworms and tapeworms every 2 - 6 months depending
on how much they hunt and if they have fleas. Use a proprietory
wormer available from your vet and follow the dosing instructions
carefully. More information on worming...
clean cats pick up fleas so check for these while grooming.
Flea dirt can usually be seen as small brown specks particularly
around the neck and base of the tail. When placed on damp
cotton wool 'flea dirt' slowly dissolves producing bloody
effective control, adult fleas on the kitten must be killed
and reinfestation from the environment prevented. Traditional
flea preparations - sprays, shampoos and collars - can contain
substances that are potentially toxic to kittens and may not
be very effective. Your vet can supply a number of new products
to kill fleas that are very safe because they act at receptors
that are not present in mammals, only in insects. The 'spot-on'
products are very easy to apply and can be used from a young
animals in the house will also have to be treated. The cat's
bedding should be washed or replaced. Your vet will also be
able to supply products that can tackle the fleas in the house,
including some that can be taken by the cat to prevent the
flea reproducing. More
information on fleas...
cats have ear mites. Often there are no symptoms but in some
cats they cause irritation leading to the production of a
greyish/brownish matter in the ear. In severe cases the ear
canal becomes blocked and infection follows. Even if the mites
do not cause a painful reaction they can be very irritating
and can be passed to other cats and dogs in the household.
If you have a dog which is persistently getting trouble with
ear mites, your vet should check your cat's ears too as they
may be the source of the mites. If your kitten's ears appear
dirty, itchy or full of dark-coloured wax it is worth checking
the problem with your vet.
year many unwanted cats and kittens have to be put to sleep
or are left to fend for themselves because there are not enough
homes to go around. Neutering your cat ensures that you do
not contribute to this problem.
male cat can be castrated from four to five months of age.
Neutering will reduce the likelihood that he will spray indoors
to mark his territory. He will also spend less time roaming
in search of mates and thus has less of a chance of being
run over by a car or getting into fights. Cats which are bitten
and scratched in fights are more likely to be at risk from
female kitten needs to be spayed to prevent unwanted kittens.
This can be undertaken by a vet from four to five months of
age. She does not need to have a litter before she is spayed.
Spaying has no harmful effects and removes the stress on both
you and your cat brought on by calling (the loud mewing which
female cats make to attract a mate), pregnancy, birth and
the care and rehoming of kittens. More
information about neutering...