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Kitten Care: The Easy Way


By Prev Info - October 11, 2022


Kittens can be a lot of fun but they are also a lot of work. Monitoring your new kitten's activities, providing proper nutrition and teaching it how to behave all lead to a healthy, well-mannered cat.

Where Do I Start?


Start with a good foundation for growth kitten food. Feed your kitten a high-quality dry diet formulated specifically for kittens from weaning to about 1 year of age. Add canned kitten food once or twice a day for variety. Exposing your kitten to various flavors and textures early on helps prevent finicky eaters.

Arnold Plotnick, DVM, an internal medicine and feline specialist in New York City, recommends feeding kittens free choice making dry kitten food always available because kittens expend lots of energy and need to eat frequently to replenish it.

Plotnick sees few problems feeding kittens free choice. "Occasionally, I run into a kitten that's getting a little pudgy, and those cats need to be fed via timed feedings." Your veterinarian can tell you if your kitten gains too much weight.

Offer fresh water at all times. Most kittens readily drink water and keep themselves hydrated. However, if your kitten doesn't drink very much, try different types of water bowls (plastic, glass, ceramic) in various sizes and locations around the house. Also try different types of water bottled, filtered, distilled or refrigerated. Some cats prefer moving water, and fountains are available at most pet stores and online.

Veterinary Care


Your kitten will have frequent vet visits during its first year. Vaccinations and deworming begin at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and altering surgery may be performed around this time. Core vaccines (those recommended for all cats) include herpes, calicivirus and panleukopenia, all repeated at 10 and 12 weeks of age, and a rabies vaccine is given at 4 months of age. Non-core vaccines include feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), giardia and chlamydophila. Ask your veterinarian which vaccines are appropriate for your cat. Indoor-only cats require fewer vaccines and less frequent vaccination than outdoor cats.

In addition to veterinary care, regularly check your kitten's ears for mites and its coat for fleas and flea dirt. And, because your kitten's output is a good indicator of its health, keep an eye out for anything strange, such as worms or parasites in the stool. If you notice any of these creepy crawlies, promptly schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Take advantage of these visits to ask your veterinarian about kitten behavior, household dangers to avoid and how to trim your kitten's nails.

Grooming


Most kittens require little more grooming than combing for coat maintenance and nail trims. If a bath is needed, use a shampoo designed for kittens and thoroughly dry your pet afterward. Longhaired cats often require more grooming than shorthaired ones. Two things to watch for are mats in the coat and fecal material trapped in the fur.

"Many of my clients who own longhaired cats often have to bring their cat to our office to have the hair around their cat's rear end shaved," Plotnick says. If you choose to use a professional groomer, make sure he or she regularly works with cats.

Stop That!


Teaching your cat the house rules takes time and patience. Karen Overall, VMD, Ph.D., a certified animal behaviorist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, advises against physically disciplining your cat because this can actually create behavior problems. "If a kitten bites, tell it 'no.' Otherwise, freeze and don't interact," Overall says. "If it pursues you, walk away. Then when  you return, redirect its behavior to a toy."

Never use your hands as a toy. This encourages your cat to attack your hand.

Prevent problems before they start. Provide your kitten with at least one easily accessible litterbox per floor in your home. There should also be one more box than the number of cats in the house. For example, if you have two cats, provide three litterboxes. Clean the boxes daily. Easy access to clean litterboxes deters cats from inappropriate urination. Cats also prefer litterboxes in secluded, low-traffic areas.

When it comes to scratching, condos and scratching posts quickly fit the bill. If your cat claws the furniture, it's saying that it wants something else. Some cats like carpet, wood or sisal rope. Teach your kitten where to scratch:

Move your kitten away from the inappropriate item.
Show your kitten the scratching post or condo.
Reward your kitten with a treat and praise for scratching the proper items.

And don't skimp when it comes to size. Provide a scratching post or condo that is larger than your kitten. Your pet should be able to stretch out and scratch without the post falling over.

Kitten Proofing


Many dangers lurk in the house. The most common problem veterinarians see is intestinal foreign bodies that require surgical removal. Kittens try to eat anything and everything: rubberbands, string, tinsel, plants, yarn and shoelaces. If it can be chewed or is small enough to be swallowed, keep it hidden!

Kittens also explore places they shouldn't go. Watch out for furnace vents. Make sure refrigerators and dryers are kitten-free before closing the door. Be careful when using rocking chairs and recliners. Window screens are fun to climb, but often result in broken tails if your kitten falls. If screens are not locked, your kitten could fall out the window and become lost or injured.

Your kitten may also chew electrical cords, so tie them up or hide them inside rubber tubing. Keep poisonous houseplants, such as philodendrons, lilies and hydrangeas, out of reach. Also tie up window blind cords and put cat fishing pole toys away when your kitten is unsupervised.

The most important ingredients to caring for your kitten are consistency, commitment and common sense.





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