Who can resist a kitten! Most people melt like a popsicle on the 4th of July when they see them. Sometimes though, we adopt one and after a few nights of no sleep, clearing them off the counters, detangling them off the couch we ask, why? Why? Kittens are often brought to shelters because their human adopters were not prepared to bring them into their home. We ask all you new kitten parents to take a deep breath and make a kitten plan!
First, are you ready for the 15-year (or longer) commitment of this new family member? Are you really ready for the litter pan? Which will need to be scooped several times a day? Are you ready for the “ferret” stage when they tear around the house, climbing curtains. Tearing up houseplants or even your favorite chair? Training cats is very different from training dogs. However providing the proper care and guidance when they are young will help them to grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults.
Before your new kitten ever comes home you should be prepared. Designate a quiet area where the kitten will feel comfortable and safe. Choose a room free of dangers such as open vents, fireplaces and poisonous plants. Make sure the room has all the necessary kitten essentials such as food and water dishes, litter box, cat bed, and scratching post to get you started down the right path.
Raising a kitten is going to be incredibly fun for you and your family, but it is also a huge responsibility. You want to make sure that your new kitten experiences the world as a wonderful and safe place! Therefore setting your kitten up for success is key. It is quite likely you will be training your new cat to use the litter box. Make sure the litter box is far away from their food and water, cats will become reluctant to use the box if it close to proximity to their eating and drinking area. Start off by placing your kitten in the litter box after eating and playtime, or when they are sniffing, scratching or you see them crouching. Make sure the litter box is always clean! Cats can be very fussy when it comes to their litter boxes and will not use it if it is dirty.
We all look forward to socializing with our new kitten; playtime is incredibly important to both their physical and emotional health. Pet and touch your kitten frequently in a soft and calm manner. Give your kitten objects to explore such as a paper bag or cardboard box. Never allow your kitten to bite or scratch during playtime. If they do, redirect them to a toy, using your hand as a play toy enforces bad habits that could be dangerous later on.
With all animals rewarding good behavior and socialization are key to having a healthy and happy pet! Redirecting unwelcome behavior is the most effective way to train your kitten. Say you walk into a room and your new kitten is scratching a chair, immediately remove them from the chair and gently place them on the scratching post, pet them and say “good kitty” in a soft voice. You may have to do this a few times but after a while they will get it!
Preventive care is extremely beneficial in the long run. Many folks don’t think to take young, observantly healthy animals to the vet. In fact, most people only take their animals to the vet when they are showing signs of an illness or are in pain. Taking your kitten to the vet for an initial exam is crucial to you and your new kitten. Discuss with your vet different food options and feeding schedules, kitten safe options for controlling parasites and fleas, signs of illness to look out for, and tips on introducing your kitten to other household pets.
Above all, be patient! Your kitten has only been in this world for a very short time and has their whole life ahead of them to learn, explore, and most importantly be loved. Every kitten has a unique personality; some may be on the timid side, while others are filled with confidence. Regardless of their character, it can be a confusing and even traumatic time for your young kitten as it leaves it’s mother and siblings for the first time. Do not rush your kitten into interactions with other animals before it is ready and supervise young children with the kitten at all times.
Most importantly have fun! Raising a kitten is an incredibly fulfilling experience. It will be trying at times as your new kitten learns how to navigate being in a home environment, however patience, kindness and compassion always wins out in the end!