How to care for a Cat or Kitten

Your new kitty depends on you for everything -- food, water, playtime, safety and especially love. Here are some kitten care tips that will help you take the very best care of your pet.

Kittens are tiny and delicate, so it’s important that you pick them up and hold them very gently.

Give your new kitty a safe and secure room to sleep in, complete with fresh food and water, a clean litter box, toys, and a soft, comfy place to sleep. Introduce your kitten to your home, one room at a time. If you have other pets, help your new kitty get to know them, little by little. Always watch over your new kitty as other pets in your home get to know her.

We really hope you will keep your kitten inside! Kittens and cats that go outside can be attacked by other animals or hit by cars. Your kitty will live a longer, happier life if you keep her indoors. (Hannah always keeps her kittens inside, where they are safe and sound.)

When you bring home a new kitten, you will need: dry and canned food, water and food bowls, a litter box, litter, a litter box scooper, a collar with an I.D. tag, a pet carrier, scratching post and toys.

By the time your kitten is 3 to 4 weeks old, you can start her on kitten food (add a little water to dry food for young kittens). Kitties should have both canned and dry food. Give your kitten food that is marked for “Kittens.” Switch to “Adult” food at about 10 months of age. Ask your veterinarian to help you select the best nutrition for your kitten's needs. Top, well-known brands usually have the best blends of protein, antioxidants and vitamins. Meat products should make up at least the first few ingredients.

The only milk your kitten needs is from her mother. Giving your cat or kitten milk can upset her stomach and cause diarrhea.

Cats and kittens usually sleep up to 16 hours a day. Most of these snoozes are just short naps. A young kitten especially needs to sleep in order to grow, so try not to bother your kitty during a nap.

Never let your kitten play by biting your hands, arms or feet. It will teach her that it’s okay to bite or scratch people. Instead, always offer your kitten soft cat toys to play or roughhouse with. Never hit your cat or kitten. Remember, if she pounces on your hands or feet, just distract her with fun, kitten toys. (If your kitty does accidentally bite or scratch you, wash with soap and water right away.)

VISITS TO THE VET (Your kitty’s first year: usually 3 visits)
Most vets agree that kittens should receive their first series of vaccinations when they’re 6 to 9 weeks old. If you adopt a kitten from a shelter, pet store or breeder, ask for your kitten’s medical records. Your vet will decide which shots your kitty needs. Indoor kitties usually have FRCP…indoor/outdoor kitties usually have FRCP, plus vaccines for Feline Leukemia and Rabies. All new kittens should be tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) before they play with other cats in your home. Your kitty’s second visit should be around 3 to 4 weeks after the first vaccines. Your vet will tell you when to return for the 3rd visit.

Most vets and breeders agree that the surgery can be performed anytime after 8 weeks of age, but it’s best to wait until kittens are 6 months old before they are spayed or neutered.

There’s only one thing to remember about a litter box – keep it clean! Scoop your kitten’s box at least once a day. And, if you have several kitties, you should have one litter box for each of them. It you don’t keep the litter box clean, kitties might not use it.

Brushing your kitty will help reduce hair balls – and she’ll like the attention and time with you. Brush kitties with short hair once a week; brush long-haired cats once a day.

Some houseplants can be dangerous if your cat or kitten eats them.
Keep poinsettias, azaleas, aloe, holly, oleander, daffodils, tulips, iris and gladiolas away from your pets.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, chocolate is toxic to pets. Even in small amounts, chocolate (and caffeine) can be poisonous. Unsweetened or dark baker’s chocolate is the most dangerous for pets. If your pet eats chocolate, call you vet right away.

Keep dangling cords, string or thread safely away from your kitty. Don’t leave plastic bags lying around that your kitten can get wrapped around her head. Also keep your kitten away from cleaning supplies and motor oil. Most fatal poisonings are caused by antifreeze or Tylenol.

Whether you’re going to the vet or elsewhere, please keep your kitty safely in a cat carrier during car rides. If you don’t, your kitten may climb all over the driver and get under the pedals. So even if your kitten meows a little, keep her in the carrier where she’s safe!

Never give you kitty or cat people medicine. Even small doses of aspirin can be poisonous to cats. Tylenol and other pain killers are even more toxic.

Always be positive when training your kitty! That means, never yell or hit her when she does something wrong. Instead, pet her and give her a treat when she does something right. One of the first things you should teach your kitty is her name. Every time she comes to you when you call her name, pet her, praise her and give her a treat. When you open a can of food, say the word “food” so she will associate that word with a yummy dinner. That way, she will usually come running when you call her name or say “food.”

Kittens like to scratch on things to sharpen their claws. This is such a strong instinct, that no amount of scolding seems to keep them from scratching on things like furniture and rugs. So the best thing to do is buy or make a good scratching post. When your kitty is using the scratching post, tell her she’s a “good kitty” and give her a treat (you can even rub the post with catnip). When she scratches on furniture, just say “no” in a stern voice. If saying “no” simply does not work, get a spray bottle and give her a little squirt from across the room. (She won’t know the water came from you, and it won’t hurt her.)

If your kitten does accidentally get outside, you don’t want her to get lost! Pick up a break-away collar at the pet store. Attach an I.D. tag with her name and your phone number on it. Some people just use a permanent marker to write information on the collar. You don’t want the collar to be too tight; you should be able to fit two fingers under the collar for a comfortable fit. Also, check the fit every now and then as your kitten grows or puts on weight.

Hannah knows you will take very good care of your kitty. If you do, your kitty will love you and play with you for a long, long time.