How to Take Care of a Kitten: Caring For Your Young Kitty

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If you are a new kitten owner or are considering adopting it is important to understand how to take of a kitty. Proper care at this young age is crucial for a kitten's future development and health as they grow and transition into a happy adult. 

Getting Your Kitten Vaccinated

More than likely, if you have bought a pedigreed kitten from a reputable breeder, it will already have all of its vaccinations before you take your kitten home with you. If this is the case, be sure that you get any and all paperwork proving that the vaccinations have been given to your new kitten and that they are all up-to-date.  However, if the kitten you are buying is not a pedigree, then you will need to consider the issues surrounding each vaccination yourself.

Vaccinating your kitten is very important, especially if you are thinking about allowing your kitten to be an outside cat, because the vaccinations help to build up their immune systems.  Generally, kittens start to receive their first vaccinations between 6 to 8 weeks of age, so it’s possible that if you take kitty home at 8 weeks, he’s already had his first shot.

Usually the vaccinations are given 2 to 3 weeks apart, and there are usually 3 vaccinations in total.  However, rabies inoculations are usually not included in the initial kitten shots, so if your kitten will be going outside, then this is an additional vaccination that you should discuss with your veterinarian once your kitten is at least 4 months old.

The vaccinations that kittens usually receive when they are quite young, will help to cover them against the following diseases:

Rhinotracheitis – This disease has symptoms such as sneezing, fever, ocular discharge, and coughing.   

Calicivirus – This disease affects the respiratory system with symptoms such as pneumonia, diarrhea and arthritis. 

Feline Distemper – This disease has symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) – This disease attacks a kittens immune system and is responsible for many feline deaths as it leads to fatal infections.

Feline AIDS – This disease also attacks the immune system, leaving it open to fatal infections.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) – This disease is incurable and attacks a cat’s abdominal area.

Chlamydia – This common and highly contagious disease affects the eyes and respiratory area of kittens and cats.

Most of these vaccines will need to be given to your cat on a yearly basis, this helps to ensure that your cat remains immune against the aforementioned diseases.  

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Taking Your Kitten to a Veterinarian

As soon after bringing your new kitten home, you should make an appointment to have your new kitten visit with your veterinarian. Sometimes it is even a good idea to take your kitten straight to the vet’s office immediately after you have picked him or her up.

During this visit, your vet will be able to assess your new kitten and will also be able to determine whether or not your new kitten has any medical conditions that you should be aware of. Your vet will also be able to advise you on the kind of kitten food and how much he or she should be eating. Your vet will most probably also give your kitten any shots that he or she is due to have, as well checking for fleas, tick and treating your kitten for any worms. 

During this first vet visit, it is a great opportunity for you to see how your vet handles your new kitten, as well as to ask any questions that you might have about your kitten’s health in general.  You should even ask your vet if they can recommend any good kitten and cat care books for you to read so that you can become the best kitten owner possible.  You should ask your vet such questions as:

  • At what age will it be safe for my kitten to go outside?
  • How do I litter training my kitten?
  • How do I stop my kitten from scratching my furniture?
  • Does my kitten need any vitamins added to her food?

Before leaving the veterinarians office, be sure to find out when you should bring your kitten back for a checkup. Usually, your veterinarian will want to see your kitten every other month or so, or they may recommend a series of weekly inoculations in order to boost your kitten’s immune system.  However, as soon as your kitten is old enough, your veterinarian will probably advise you to bring your cat into the vet’s office at least once a year for an annual shot and general health check-up. 

Giving Your Kitten an at-Home Weekly Health Checkup

In order to make that your kitten remains in good health; you should perform a weekly health check up at home, between visit visits.

You should start be setting aside 5 to 10 minutes per week and use these few minutes to examine the various parts of your kitten that may highlight the start of any health issue:

  • Call your kitten over to you and as she walks over, be observant of how she moves. Is her weight being evenly distributed on all four legs or is she trying to avoid putting weight on any of them? 
  • Pick up your kitten and look directly into her eyes.  They should be clear and not clouded and there should also be no discharge around the eyes.  If there is, you should consult with your veterinarian.
  • Check your kitten’s nose. It should be moist without any discharge. 
  • Your kitten’s ears should be clean and without any discharge. 
  • Look inside your kitten’s mouth to see if she hasn’t lost any teeth since the week before and that her teeth are white without looking as if she’s got any problems there.
  • Rub your hands down your kitten’s tummy and back.  Feel if there are any lumps or bumps. If there are, then you should call your vet.
  • Finally, take a good look at your kitten’s fur. It should be sleek, shiny and healthy looking with no bald patches of fur as this could be a grooming or nutritional issue.  Your kitten’s fur falling out could also be a result of an allergy or flea infestation.  Regular brushing should help your kitten’s fur it is greasy or dull. If it doesn’t improve after a couple of weeks, then it will time to call your vet.

This weekly checkup will only take a few minutes and your kitten will quickly become used to it and will let you do whatever you need to do. Because you are able to do this weekly checkup, you’ll soon know when something is not right and when to call the vet.

Training Your Kitten to Use a Litter Box

You should always train your kitten to use a litter box. Because even if you are planning to allow your kitten to be an outside cat and come and go whenever it pleases, you will need to be sure that if ever there was a time when your kitten is not able to go outside for whatever reason, then your cat is already litter boxed trained and will be able to use the litter box whenever necessary.  Your kitten may not seem too happy about having to use the litter tray but they will get used to it.

There might come a time when you have to be out of town for a few days and you do not want your kitten to come in and out as she pleases, nor do you want to leave the cat door unlocked for security reasons, and so your kitten will have to be content with staying inside. Or perhaps it is the middle of winter and the temperature is freezing outside – too cold for your kitten to be outside at all.

You will then need to keep your kitten inside to avoid the cold and she will have to then use the litter box. Or, your kitten might have to undergo a medical treatment that will require him to be kept indoors for a while. If you have trained your kitten to use a little box, then the cat that she grows into won’t have a problem if she finds herself locked inside with no means of getting outside to go potty.

When you first bring your kitten home, have a litter box ready for her to use.  You won’t be letting her outside for those first days when she is so small anyway, so use this time to train her to use the litter box. Start by using a shallow tray that she can easily jump into and put a layer of kitty litter on top.  As your kitten grows, always have a clean litter tray available, even if she doesn’t always use it, she will learn where it is and when the day comes that she finds herself locked inside, she will know where the litter box as well as how to use it.

Kittens and Milk

Most people believe that all cats and kittens enjoy drinking milk; usually these are the people who have never owned a cat or a kitten.  However, the truth of the matter is that some cats and kittens like milk whilst others cannot tolerate milk at all. There is a large percentage of the cat and kitten population that are lactose intolerant.

If, after you have offered a bowl of milk to your kitten, find that your kitten does not like milk, or perhaps your veterinarian has advised you that your kitten is lactose intolerant, then you will need to ensure that your kitten has plenty of fresh water available to drink.  If your kitten is quite young, then you should ask your veterinarian to suggest some alternatives to make sure that your kitten gets the right amount of calcium to ensure that his bones and his teeth grow healthily. 

Older cats do not need as much calcium as kittens do, however, if you already know that your cat does not like milk or is lactose intolerant, it would then be best if you chose a cat food brand that has calcium among the added vitamins and minerals that it lists on its packaging.  

Be sure to consult with your veterinarian to determine what the appropriate amount of calcium is for your kitten’s age and size. This should also be discussed with your veterinarian whenever you take your cat in for his or her annual checkups and vaccinations.  If your cat is pregnant, nursing a litter, or if your veterinarian has determined that your kitten should now be considered a senior cat, you should discuss with your veterinarian as to whether you might need to give a calcium supplement to your cat.

Although all kittens do need calcium, they will need different amounts throughout their various life stages. Most kittens do not need to drink milk to remain healthy.  Never force your kitten to drink milk if he or she has an aversion to it. Remember, that it could be quite possible that your kitten is lactose intolerant and forcing it to drink milk could make your kitten very sick. Always discuss this possibility with your veterinarian.

Grooming Your Kitten

Just as most cats are, by nature, clean animals and do not like being dirty, the same is true about kittens.  Even the youngest kitten out of a litter can be seen trying to wash itself.  However, there will be times during your kitten’s life when he or she will be unable to groom itself, or it could be that the kind of cat you choose has high maintenance fur and will then need extra help to keep its fur in good condition.

Keep in mind though that some cats do not like being groomed and so it is therefore best to start grooming and bathing your cat when he or she is still a kitten.  If you and your kitten get into a the habit of combing and brushing your kitten a few times a week, then if the day comes when he’s just in too much mess, or too sick to manage himself, then he will not mind your intervention to get him clean.

Whilst your kitten is still quite young, you should try to get him or her used to having a bath. First start by introducing the concept of water and bathing to your kitten by using a damp face cloth and wiping your kittens paws and face with it.

Eventually, your kitten will become more and more used to the water and may even tell you when they want to have a bath!  There are some breeds of cats, such as the Turkish Van, that loves the water and will happily jump into the bathtub with you! Kittens and cats should be bathed at least once a month.

Brushing your kitten should be done on a daily basis if possible. The perfect time for this is at night when you are watching the TV and your kitten crawls up onto your lap. Make sure to have a brush handy and gently brush your kitten in the direction that his or her fur grows. Your kitten will quickly get used to how this feels. If your kitten has long fur then try to set aside half an hour at least twice a week to thoroughly comb through his or her coat, as this helps to ensure that tangles do not build up and that your kittens’ coat remains healthy state. 

Remember that the time you invest in grooming your kitten now will pay off once your kitten becomes a cat that needs help with cleaning his or her fur.  A cat that is used to being groomed is far easier to maintain than one who turns every grooming session into a battle of wills!

Letting Your Kitten Wear an ID Tag

Before getting an ID tag for your new kitten, you should first consider where and how your kitten will wear it. If your kitten is younger than 8 weeks old, then he or she will probably be too young to wear a collar and therefore and ID tag would be useless. The reason to have an ID tag is to help to identify your cat in case it goes outside and does not come back, and since your new kitten shouldn’t be going outside just yet, it doesn’t need an ID tag.

If your kitten is older than 8 weeks though, he or she is big enough to wear a collar and you can then place an ID tag onto their collar. There are many different types of ID tags that are available, and they range from being classy and fun to quotes and engravings. Whatever type of ID tag you choose, you should make sure that it is able to hold all of the necessary identification information. 

Do keep in mind though that if the tag is engraved, then your information is there permanently, but an ID tag that you have to write the information on to it needs three things: a permanent marker or pen so that the information doesn’t wear off or fade; your information should be easy to read; and it must have some form of waterproof covering so that snow and rain can not fade the information away.

Another thing you could consider is having your vet implant an ID chip into your kitten.  He could do this when undertaking a routine examination or perhaps taking out stitches after your kitten has been neutered.  ID chipping means that there’s no possibility of your cat losing its collar and becoming ID-less, all anyone needs to do is take the kitten to the nearest authorities and they’ll be able to scan him and have you traced in the least possible time. 

There are those who love the ID chip implant idea, and those who hate it, and there’s no right and wrong decision, it’s very much up to you.  The only thing to remember is that cats, especially kittens, sometimes need a little help getting back home, and so once your kitten is mobile enough to be outdoors, he really should have an ID tag that speaks for him.


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