How To Take Care Of A Kitten
Thinking of buying a kitten but not sure where to start? Let us help. We filmed new arrival, Walter, for a PetMonkey video on kitten ownership. In our real-life edit, we show you around her home, giving you feeding, sleeping and handling tips to build up your confidence.
Prefer to read about it? Here's our top ten kitten care tips:
1. Offer wet and dry food
You can offer your kitten wet or dry Cat Food, or a mixture of both. While dry food can be more economical, wet cat food is often more palatable to kittens. We chose to offer Walter a bowl of each, at least to start with. This allowed us to understand which she prefers - and it's definitely the wet stuff at the moment! If you offer dry food, then make sure the kibble is small enough for young mouths to pick up easily. Royal Canin Second Age Kitten Dry Cat Food - 4kg has the perfect shape and can be fed from kitten-hood up to 12 months old.
Looking after a newborn kitten? Then a complementary feed, such as Royal Canin First Age Mother & Baby Cat Dry Cat Food - 4kg, is ideal. It is very easy to digest, and comes with DHA, which supports your kitten's brain development during gestation and lactation. You can feed this for the first 16 weeks, before moving onto dry and/or wet kitten food.
2. Get your kitten used to water
Should you feed a kitten milk? In short: no - unless it's their mother's milk, that is. Once weaned, it's important not to provide cow's milk, as this can make your kitten ill. Go for water every time, and get your kitten used to drinking it, changing it regularly to keep it clean and fresh.
3. Create a relaxing sleep space
Kittens, like human babies, love to play - but they sleep a lot, too. Your kitten will settle quickly once she has secured a safe place to rest. Our next tip in how to take care of a kitten is to create a 'loo seat nest.' This is basically a homemade Cat Bed, made up of a soft towel placed on a down-turned toilet seat. This creates a cosy, raised sleep space, which Walter likes a lot! (A word of caution: make sure to keep the seat down at all times - else your kitten could drown). And don't be surprised if your kitten ignores your efforts and chooses to sleep in a stack of towels! If you really want to treat your kitty, then there's lots of fantastic cat beds out there, from plush hide-holes such as Scruffs Knightsbridge Cat Bed - Grey to cool felt houses like the Danish Design Pet Teepee.
4. Use cat litter sparingly
Tempting as it might be to fill the litter tray to the top, don't. Kittens will mess the litter at lot, so you'll need to change the soiled areas regularly - this is a lot easier when you're dealing with one layer of litter, as opposed to a deep tray full. Choose a clumping litter such as Pettex Premium Fullers Earth Cat Litter - 20kg. This soft litter forms clumps when weed or pooed on, which are easy to lift out. (We used a spatula to do this). It also soaks up those inevitable smells.
5. Provide a secure kitten-only zone...
It might seem like a luxury, but creating a single area that is entirely kitty's, at least for the first weeks, will serve you well for the rest of their life. A box or utility room is ideal. In our video, Walter has free rein to run, jump, sleep, feed and play from the downstairs bathroom. She'll stay in here for as long as she's tiny.
This has lots of benefits. One, she feels safe. She can grow and learn, surrounded by familiar sights and sounds. Two, it means that she can do her business without disturbing the rest of the house. Talking of which... you really don't need to spend much on a litter tray. A simple plastic tray, such as Animal Instincts Cat Litter Tray - L, has nice deep sides to keep as much litter inside as possible.
... But hold firm in the living room.
Walter doesn't just spend time in her own private space. She also gets to spend time in the other parts of the house too. We introduced Walter to our family living room early on, but only while held on our laps. That's really important. Those other areas of the house might intrigue her, but they can be scary, too. Holding her close while you introduce her to different rooms, one at a time makes her feel safe. Not only that: it reinforces those physical boundaries. She knows she can play as much as she likes 'her' room, but she needs to respect the rest of the house! Once Walter is ready, then we'll let her explore outside. If she turns out to be an outdoor cat, living life mainly outdoors, then a specially formulated cat food such as Royal Canin Active Life Outdoor Dry Cat Food - 4kg will give her lots of energy as well as protecting her joints during all those outdoor adventures!
6. Offer comfort on the journey home
It's a big deal leaving home, and kittens are no different. If you're going to put your kitten in a crate when taking a new kitten home, then make sure to include some food that she's already used to, and pop in some soft blankets to create a warm and cosy environment. Or, if you feel confident, do as we did and hold your new kitten firmly in your lap while someone else does the driving.
7. Keep hands for touch, not play
We never let Walter play with our hands. Doing so means that she associates your hands with biting and scratching - not good. Instead, let her play with a toy on a piece of string, and save your hands for touch. It's not only better for your relationship, it's safer and more hygienic, too.
8. Interact as much as you can
We can't stress this enough. If you're serious about how to take care of a kitten, then you'll take time out of your day to play with your new arrival. This can be difficult, especially with work commitments, so make sure that all family members are on board too. Kittens love to play, and the more fun (and handling) they get, the better. You don't need expensive toys - a key on a foam key-ring will have her jumping, rolling and batting away for hours.
9. Don't shy from sensitive areas
Touching kitty's delicate areas, such as her paws, ears and back legs, is important. It's pleasurable for her, but it also builds up trust between the two of you. This will come in useful in her later life when you have to deal with those less appealing duties as a cat owner. How to take care of a kitten involves such delights as removing ticks and thorns. You can start to trim her nails from around a month old, which is a great way to get her used to you touching those delicate places.
10. Handle your kitten firmly
Our final tip is to touch your kitten kindly, but firmly. Yes, this can be daunting when she's jumping around like a jack-in-the-box, but being confident, rather than skittish, teaches her to trust you. Before you know it, your kitten will be a cat, and for all your hard work, you'll be rewarded with a chilled-out cat.
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