"What greater gift than the love of a cat." - Charles Dickens
Kittens make wonderful pets, and to enjoy all the benefits of owning a kitten it's important to understand the essentials. To give them the best start in life and assist you in introducing your kitten to their new home, we've included some useful information to get you started.
It's important that your new kitten has a check up with a veterinarian soon after bringing them home. Your kitten will have a thorough examination and your vet will discuss vaccinations, parasite prevention, desexing and an appropriate diet. Ideally choose a veterinary clinic close to your home and one with opening hours that coincide with your schedule. Many clinics have extended opening hours in the evenings and weekends to accommodate for work schedules. Also ask your vet if they offer an after-hours service or if they refer to an emergency clinic, just in case you need assistance out of hours.
Kittens require intestinal worming more frequently than adults. A good rule of thumb to remember for worming is:
- Every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age, then
- Monthly until 6 months of age, then
- Every 3 months for life
Your kitten should have already been started on a worming protocol by the breeder, but it's a good idea to check which product was used and the date it was last given. This will ensure your kitten is always protected. Some examples of oral worming products for cats include Drontal and Milbemax.
Flea and Tick Prevention
If your kitten is going to be an outdoor cat and you're in a tick area, such as along the eastern coastline of Australia, you will need to think about tick prevention. Currently the only registered product for cats for protection from paralysis ticks is Frontline Spray. This spray needs to be applied every 3 weeks and dosed as per the instructions on the bottle. If you're not in a tick area, or your cat is 100% indoor, you can consider using a combination spot-on product such as Advocate or Revolution.
Many combination products for cats also include protection from heartworm, such as Advocate and Revolution which are both spot-on treatments, and Milbemax which is an oral tablet. These are all monthly products.
As there are many options and different combinations it can become confusing so if you're not sure, have a chat with your vet about which products to use on your kitten.
Under the Companion Animal Act 1998, kittens require microchipping prior to sale or transfer and by 12 weeks of age. Therefore, your kitten is likely already microchipped, but be sure to update the contact details with the microchipping registry and register them with your local council.
Desexing is a common procedure that has several life-changing benefits including preventing unwanted litters, a friendlier demeanour, less fighting and prevention of certain diseases such as uterine infection and mammary cancer. The age at which desexing occurs differs depending on who you speak to, and there is no wrong opinion. Some veterinarians advocate earlier desexing at 4 months of age, while other veterinarians recommend desexing at around 6 months of age. Your vet will check your pet over and give you their recommendation.
Your kitten will need to be vaccinated against Herpesvirus, Calicivirus and Panleukopaenia virus which are considered the "core" kitten vaccinations. Your kitten has likely already had at least one vaccination and will require two further kitten boosters to be protected. Check with your vet when your kitten is due for their booster vaccinations. From here, your cat will receive a booster vaccination at approximately 12 months of age and then annually for life. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) are two other viruses that your kitten may require vaccination against, particularly if they are outdoor cats or in high-risk homes such as multi-cat households. Your vet will advise you on what your kitten needs at their first check-up.
Catify Your Home
When you first bring your kitten home, it's important to remember that they will feel scared and lonely as they are no longer with their mother and siblings. They may cry during the night for the first few nights while they adjust to their new home. Cat-ifying your home will help your new kitten adjust to their environment and reduce stress.
So what does catify mean? To begin with, try and limit your kitten's access to a few rooms in the house and have all their essentials close-by so your kitten doesn't need to venture too far. Within one of these rooms create a safe haven where they can hide, rest, play, eat and use the litter tray comfortably. Don't worry if you only have a small area as cats prefer to survey their kingdom from a height, so utilise this to your advantage. Cat furniture such as the Playmate range are purrfect for cats, combining hidey holes, cosy caverns and elevated retreats all-in-one. Igloo-style beds are also a great option, providing a warm comfy area to sleep as well as the comfort of a shelter.
Catify also means mental stimulation and enrichment through interactive toys, games and scratchers which help your kitten to learn and demonstrate normal behaviour. Remember to always handle kittens gently and supervise children when they are playing with them. If you are introducing your new kitten to other cats in the household, have a read of our New Cat Guide, to help reduce any conflict and stress between the soon to be playmates.
Kittens naturally value cleanliness so with a bit of persistence toilet training is usually fairly easy. Place a litter tray within your kittens safe haven so it's always in easy reach. How many litter trays should you have? As a general guide, have 1 litter tray per cat plus 1 extra. For example:
- In a 1 cat household - 1 + 1 = 2 litter trays
- In a 2 cat household - 2 + 1 = 3 litter trays
Gently place them in the litter tray at opportune times such as when they first wake up from a nap, after eating and after playtime. It is normal for them to have accidents outside the litter tray while they are learning so don't be discouraged. Be sure to clean up any mishaps with an enzymatic cleaner, to discourage them from toileting in the same location again. Once they have used the litter tray, it's a good idea to clean the tray promptly as kittens are much more likely to use it if it's clean. For more information, see our article on Toilet Training Your Kitten and Your Guide to Choosing Cat Litter.
Feeding your kitten a high quality, complete and balanced diet is the best way to ensure they have the best start in life. Premium diets offer a range of benefits over cheaper, supermarket brands such as high digestibility and high quality ingredients which promote optimal growth and development. Premium diets include Advance, Hill's and Royal Canin, which make complete kitten diets balanced in essential nutrients to allow for adequate nutrition, growth and development.
It's ideal to feed a mixture of both dry and wet food because they both have individual benefits for your kitten. Firstly, wet food helps to keep them hydrated. Hydration is also important to help prevent medical complications later in life such as urinary crystals and kidney disease which are both common in cats. Wet food also tends to be more palatable because of its stronger aroma, which makes it a good choice for those fussy felines. Dry food is also important because the mechanical action of chewing kibble helps to keep their teeth clean. Mixed feeding from an early age will help to discourage your kitten from developing strict dietary preferences and allow you to feed a range of diets, which may be important if they need a specific diet for a health condition during their life.
Fresh water must be supplied at all times and in a convenient location for your kitten. Provide fresh water daily with regular bowl cleans. Cats also naturally prefer to drink from running water so consider Water Fountains which are also a great way to encourage water intake in your kitten.
Grooming is a great way to bond with your kitten and a good habit to get into right from the start. It's also important to help reduce shedding and the development of hairballs. Start by gently using the brush for very short periods of time and gradually work up to longer grooming sessions. The requirement for grooming is dependent on the breed, with long-haired breeds such as Persians and Ragdolls requiring brushing more frequently.
Aim to groom your long-haired kitty on a daily basis with a wide tooth metal comb or deshedding tool like the Furminator. Be careful around sensitive areas like the "armpit" and inner leg and pay close attention around the ears and neck which are most prone to knots. For short-haired breeds, use a bristle brush, rubber brush or deshedding tool on a weekly basis. Always comb in the direction of the hair and then against it, to gently remove knots. Don't forget to give your kitten lots of praise or a treat when you've finished grooming so they associate grooming with a positive thing.
With all this in mind, remember to enjoy your new bundle of joy!
Dr Kim is one of our resident Pet Circle Veterinarians. When Kim isn't sharing her pet care knowledge at Pet Circle, she enjoys travelling, spending time at the beach, and teaching her Border Collie, Louisiana "Lou" new tricks!
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