Getting a new kitten is one of the best things in the world. They’re cute, soft as down, and as cuddly as, well, kittens. Nearly irresistible, kittens melt even the toughest of hearts; even Attila the Hun was thought to have several dozen kittens around at any given time (never verified, but he was a soft-on-the-inside kind of guy, so who's to say?).
It's good to get things started off on the right paw, and the food and care you choose can make all the difference in the health and happiness of your growing kitten. Here are 10 starter tips for you and your "mew" companion.
1. Continue feeding your kitten its "normal" diet, but slowly introduce high quality kitten food (i.e., high in protein and taurine, and low in fillers and carbs) into the mix; consult your veterinarian as to what best serves your cat. After it has adjusted, feed it the high quality food exclusively.
2. Feed your kitten at least three times a day from a shallow plate. Remember, they’re tiny things and so they need easy access to their food. Snacks, especially during the growing stage, should also be included. Small amounts of high-protein foods like cooked egg yolk, boneless fish, and cooked or raw liver will be a great treat, and will help build strong bones.
3. That said, it's alright to feed your kitten frequently while it is growing (under six months old), even several times a day. If your kitten prefers grazing or eats modestly, keep a small amount of dry kibble available in a dish for it throughout the day.
4. Dry or wet? Many owners find a happy balance between the two. Perhaps wet food in the evening and dry in the day.
5. Always have fresh water available and check it throughout the day for cleanliness. Keep in mind that water is enough, no other liquid needs to be given. In fact, cow milk can cause quite a tummy ache and should be avoided. Yes, cats like the taste of milk and will drink it if you give it to them in a bowl. But that's not saying much, seeing as they also like the taste of antifreeze. Leave cow milk to small calves -- and people.
6. When you first bring your kitten home, it’s a good idea to keep your kitten in the same room with the litter box for a few days so that it may get used to it. Kittens don’t need much in the way of training. Often, just knowing where the box is is enough of an incentive to use it; cats naturally prefer to bury their waste.
7. Keep a close eye on your kitten. They’re small, curious, and can get into trouble. It is all too easy for a small animal to get caught between furniture and appliances, fall into a toilet, or be stepped on. Until it learns self safety, you will be your kitten's best line of defense.
8. Take your kitten for a checkup and all appropriate immunizations.
9. Getting your kitten spayed or neutered makes for a healthier and happier cat, and thus a happier you. Fixed cats don’t go into heat or get pregnant and are less likely to get into fights or spray urine. Neutering is usually done around six months, but most younger kittens handle this small surgery very well, and can have it done anytime after two months, but your vet will be the best judge of this. Make the appointment in advance, based on your vet's advice.
10. Play with your kitten. A piece of string, crumpled paper, or a toy from pet store -- almost anything can be a toy. Kittens (and cats) love to play. The bond you begin now, through play and unconditional love, will be unshakable for many years to come.
Love your kitten and treat it well. Soon, your kitten will grow into a beautiful, faithful, and loving cat.
Image: Helga Weber / via Flickr