For many, kittens are just too cute to resist. We are captivated by their unfailing energy, warmed by their vulnerability and won over completely by a squeak or a purr. Before bringing a kitten home, however, remember that kittens require extra care and attention to help them grow into healthy, independent cats. A few tips can help ease a kitten’s transition into the family.
Start by “kitten-proofing” your home. Find a quiet space where the kitten can adjust to his new environment without too much chaos. Provide a box with a blanket or a cat bed, as well as a litter box with a shallow lip. Make sure there are no choking hazards around. Remove poisonous house plants and insect traps. When a kitten is in the home, all family members must get used to keeping the toilet seat down.
For a kitten to grow into a well-adjusted cat, you’ll need to help the little ball of fur adjust to being away from his mother. Choosing an older kitten – ten to twelve weeks old – will make that adjustment easier. Look for kittens that are responsive, curious and active – these attributes generally indicate that the kitten has been handled and cared for properly.
When first introduced into the home, provide calm, quiet and reassuring attention. Allow the kitten to explore the home at his own pace. Stay close, providing encouragement and reassurance. A kitten will not sleep through the night, so be prepared to comfort and soothe him for the first few evenings. A ticking clock, wrapped in a towel and tucked into his bed, provides a soothing reminder of his mother’s heartbeat.
A kitten should be taken to see a veterinarian shortly after they arrive in your home to ensure that he is free of mites, fleas and worms. The kitten will need vaccinations that will protect him against feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus and feline panleukopenia. When the kitten is at least twelve weeks, follow up with tests for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. Rabies shots are often required by law. Ask your veterinarian when the kitten should get spayed or neutered.
Kittens are balls of energy, willing to play at any time. Engaging a kitten with play that brings out his innate ability to hunt will help him grow into a well-balanced cat, one that will share your life happily for years to come.