For any young creature, the first year is crucial for proper mental and physical development, and your new kitten is no exception. Once you welcome your new frisky feline into your home, you play an important role in helping them grow into a happy, healthy adult cat. In addition to love and attention, a kitten requires the following aspects of care, to put them on the path of healthy adulthood.
Kittens need environmental enrichment
A common misconception is that cats are relatively low-maintenance and require nothing more than a litter box, some dry food, and a water dish. While these items may keep a cat alive, they do nothing to ensure they are well-cared for and happy. Plentiful environmental enrichment is vital, to keep your kitten happy and healthy, mentally and physically. Cats are easily prone to life’s stressors, which can influence their physical health, and cause challenging conditions such as feline idiopathic cystitis, inappropriate elimination, and aggression.
Avoid behavioral issues by providing your new kitten with plenty of environmental enrichment opportunities that will promote mental and physical health. You can satisfy your kitten’s instinctual needs with:
- Climbing towers
- Scratching posts
- Lookout perches
- Safe hiding spots
- Toys and games that mimic prey movement, such as robotic mice, feather wands, and fishing pole toys
Cats love vertical spaces, because they feel safe and secure up high, and building feline-friendly shelves, climbing towers, and lookout spots in your home is important, to cater to that desire. Also, contrary to popular belief, cats—especially kittens—enjoy being active, playing games, and learning new tricks, so encourage these activities, which will also help keep your pet slim and happy.
Socialize your kitten
Most pet owners are aware of puppy socialization, but do not realize this is equally important for kittens. Unfortunately, by the time you welcome your kitten home, their prime socialization period—the brief timeframe from 2 to 7 weeks of age—has likely ended, but that doesn’t mean you should skip acclimating your pet to new people, pets, places, objects, and other novelties. Always allow your pet to make the first move, and reward them for being brave and exploring new things with a tasty treat, quick game, or extra petting. By pairing a reward with a potentially frightening situation, you will create a positive association, leading to a happier, less anxious, well-adjusted cat. Never force your kitten to interact with new people and animals.
Litter-box training for kittens
Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common reasons people surrender their cats to animal shelters. However, this huge issue in cats can often be solved with litter-box usage training. Follow these steps to ensure your kitty always uses the box, and not your bed:
- Ensure the litter box is the right size — Use a large litter box that is at least one and a half times as long as your cat, from nose to tail. Keep in mind that your kitten will grow, and consider a larger box that will be comfortable, and prevent eliminating over the edge.
- Leave the cover off the box — Although most cat owners prefer covered boxes to reduce odors, most cats do not like being trapped inside, and will likely avoid the box. Stick to an open litter box placed in an area that allows easy entrance and exit.
- Scoop regularly — Scoop the box at least twice per day, and thoroughly disinfect and wash the box with a mild cleaner weekly. Cats usually avoid a dirty box, and may find a clean location to eliminate, such as your freshly washed laundry pile.
- Find the perfect location — Place the box in a quiet location, never next to the washing machine or the water heater, and not in the middle of the living room. Choose a quiet, out-of-the-way spot, but one that is close enough to your kitten’s other resources, to encourage proper use.
- Forget the perfume — Most cats prefer unscented litter with fine granules, but you may need to experiment to determine the litter substrate your kitten likes best.
Wellness care for your kitten
As with all pets, wellness care is critical to prevent diseases, find a disease early before it’s too late to treat, and help ensure a long, healthy life. To keep your kitten in tip-top shape for years to come, begin with regular wellness care and routine preventive care from day one, which will include:
- Comprehensive physical exam
- LIfestyle-appropriate vaccinations
- Infectious disease testing
- Parasite screening and prevention
- Diet and nutrition discussion
- Spaying or neutering
As your kitten ages, our Elmore Road Veterinary Clinic team will recommend baseline diagnostic testing to monitor normal values, which will allow us to spot abnormalities sooner, giving your furry friend a better outcome, and easier treatment.
Nothing is more exciting than welcoming a new kitten into your family, and we can’t wait to welcome your new feline friend into our family. Give us a call to schedule your kitten’s first wellness visit, so we can check them out from whiskers to tail.