Before purchasing or adopting a kitten, there are certain health related points you should check. The eyes should be clear and bright with no discharge around the eyes or on the hair adjacent to the eyes. The ear openings should be clean and free of any wax buildup in the ear openings. The gums should be pink and the teeth white. The nose should be clean with no evidence of moist or dry discharge. The general body condition should be good with no evidence of "pot belly" or bony appearance. There should be good "flesh" on all the bones which should be evident when the kitten is picked up.
Look carefully for swellings around the middle of the belly and lower abdomen which could indicate hernias. If the kitten has had diarrhea the rectal area may look soiled or irritated. Look closely at the hair coat for fleas and ticks. Any evidence of "dirt" in the hair may actually be flea waste material often called "flea dirt".
The kitten and its environment should be clean. Evidence of a playful attitude and attachment to humans is a plus. If you pick up the kitten and it hisses and tries to bite, stay away. This may not be the kitten for you.
Things you will need for your kitten the first day:
|Food and water dishes:||Wash separately from household dishes to help prevent any disease transmitted to humans. These conditions are rare but it is best to practice good hygiene early.|
|Brushes:||Soft brushes or grooming gloves are best for cats. They generally love to be brushed.|
|Beds:||Cats like to lay on soft bedding. The bedding should be washable. Cats also like to hide in cozy areas so pick a bed that can be put in a corner.|
|Collar:||Since cats are climbers it is best to use a collar or harness that has an elastic band made especially for cats. This safety feature may prevent your cat from being "hung" on a curtain rod or other similar structure.|
|Cat carrier:||Carriers are very important since trips to the veterinarian with not only expose your kitten to an automobile but to an open parking lot as well. Many cats not in carriers jump out of their owners arms and run away after being scared in a veterinary hospital parking lot.|
|Kitten food:||We suggest a premium kitten food such as Health Blend, Science Diet, or Iams.|
|Wellness Examination:||Kittens should be examined by a veterinarian within 24-48 hours after arriving in their new home.|
The old saying "curiosity killed the cat" may hold true due to the curious nature of kittens. Just as you should childproof your house so should you kitten proof everything. Do not make the mistake of thinking kittens cannot jump on cabinets, nibble plants, or get on the sewing table. Be careful not to leave open containers or residues of household cleaning agents, bug chemicals or sprays, rubber bands, sewing thread, small balls or beads, moth balls, open plastic bags, and other potentially harmful products laying around.
Teach your kitten right away that counters are off limits. Hot stoves, pilot lights, and counter top appliances that can topple over can be hazardous. Kittens like warm places, so be sure to check your clothes dryer before turning it on. Kittens have been known to curl up in a clothes basket of clothes only to be picked up and tossed unknowingly into the washer or dryer.
The first few weeks are critical to a kitten's proper socialization and domestication. Kittens usually should stay with their mothers until they are seven weeks old. This period of imprinting is far more important for kittens than puppies. Once the kitten arrives home place the carrier and the kitten in a quiet room. Be sure to leave the door of the carrier open and have food , water, and a litter box nearby. Allow the kitten's natural curiosity to seek you out when it needs attention. You can stay in the room with the kitten for short periods, but remember that the kitten has been separated from the only family it has ever known and will need some "space" in the new human household. Once the kitten explores the house you may find that the kitten comes to you for some attention and loving. Petting and stroking while softly speaking is the best approach. It is best not to force the kitten to stay with you when he/she tires of the attention. Kittens generally want attention only when they want it. It has been said when you want some attention from a cat, they may "take a number and get back to you".
If children are in the house, proper handling of pets should be discussed. Children have been known to squeeze and actually drag kittens around by body parts. A common injury in young kittens is broken bones from rough play and death from squeezing a kitten too hard. When handling the kitten speak softly and gently rub your hands over the body. Feet, ears, and belly should be rubbed and caressed daily. It also helps to open the kittens mouth and observe the teeth and color of the gums. Kittens that become accustomed to this type of caress are much more loving and easier for veterinarians to examine since they are familiar with these parts being handled.
Food and water should be given to the kitten in a quiet place away from heavy traffic. Since cats do not eat everything at one sitting it is best to offer dry food and leave it out during the day. Kittens and cats do not drink as much water as dogs, but a bowl of clean fresh water should be available at all times. If you notice that the kitten is drinking large amounts of water, call your veterinarian. Canned cat foods and milk commonly cause diarrhea in kittens. Dehydration can occur quickly within a few days so medical attention is best initiated within 48 hours after the diarrhea begins. Kitten food should be used until the cat is approximately 9-12 months old. At this age adult cat food should be used. Before choosing any food for your kitten consult your veterinarian, as there are many differences in the nutritional value of foods available.
Cats learn to use litter by watching other cats. There is a good chance that your kitten will know how to use the litter box without training. Find an area that is not too secluded but away from traffic flow. Newspaper or any used carpet square can be put down over the flooring. Types of litter vary and you may want to experiment. The clay type litters are dusty, have to be "dumped" daily, but are less expensive. The scoopable litters are preferred by many cat owners since they only have to scoop the obvious portions as needed. All of the scoopable litters are not of the same quality, so you may have to try a few brands or ask a friend who has a cat. It is best not to touch the waste with your hands to help prevent the spread of disease (see information on Toxoplasmosis). The secret to litter box training is to keep the litter waste free. As soon as you notice waste in the box clean it out, since kittens like people prefer clean "bathrooms".
There are many books on raising kittens,
training, and suggestions. Consult your veterinarian, pet store, and book store for
additional information on kittens and cats.