A Primer For New Kitten Owners
Are you considering adopting a new kitten? Cats make wonderful pets, especially for those who have a busy lifestyle and want to enjoy the companionship of a pet without having to worry about walking a dog. Of course, as with any pet, a decision to adopt a new cat or kitten should first be discussed with your entire family. Sadly, there are many people who are allergic to cats, so it’s important to talk it over thoroughly before you even consider bringing a kitten home.
Once you’ve decided to bring a new kitten into your life, there are many different options to use in order to find your ideal ball of fluff. Some people go to breeders and buy expensive cats with lengthy pedigrees, while others will journey down to the local animal shelter to find their perfect pet.
Quite often, people fall into the lure of “free kitten” advertisements but, while people may give the kittens away, it’s very important to note that there are no such things as free kittens; as with any animal, kittens need proper veterinary care, food, and other supplies. Here are some helpful hints that can benefit you, when you go to bring your new kitten home and help make this an enjoyable experience for all:
Transportation Of Your New Kitten
picture of cute orange tabby longhair kitten photo picBefore you go to pick up your new kitten, you should decide how you’re going to transport him to his new home. While some people seem to feel that it’s alright to transport a cat in a box, one should realize that not only is it dark and confining, but that a box does not provide good ventilation and can feel very hot and uncomfortable for a kitten, even on a short trip.
The best method of transporting a new kitten is to purchase a small carrier from your local pet store. Modern carriers provide good ventilation and comfort for your cat, as well as keeping him safe from harm.
Never attempt to bring a cat or kitten home by leaving them loose in the car or by holding them. This is dangerous, not only to him, but to you as well. A frightened cat will often race around the car, scratch, bite, and could conceivably run down in around the brake and gas pedals of the car, not to mention the fact that car rides quite often tend to make them sick to their stomachs.
Cat and Kitten Veterinary Care
Before you take your cat or kitten home, you should prepare to make a stop at the veterinary office. No kitten should be brought home until they have been examined by your vet – while he may look healthy to you, a veterinarian will be able to point out any potential problems, as well as administer his first vaccinations if he’s not yet had them.
Taking your cat straight home, without a vet check, not only endangers your kitten but any other pets you might have. Additionally, you can have your kitten micro-chipped at the veterinarian’s office, which will help to identify him, in case he’s ever lost.
Kitten-Proofing Your Home
Little kittens love to chew on things, and it’s especially important to either ensure that all electrical cords are taped down or that they’ve been treated by a product, such as Bitter Apple, to discourage your kitten from chewing on them. It’s also advisable to forgo putting up the good curtains for a couple of weeks, until you can teach your kitten that they aren’t trees meant for climbing.
You will also want to be sure that there are no toxic chemicals or plants where your kitten can get into them. Antifreeze is a very potent poison that is extremely tasty to pets and has a sweet scent and, quite often, people forget that the chemicals that are used to clean our toilets are toxic – always be sure to put the lid down, whether you have a dog or a cat. Also important to know is that many houseplants are also toxic to pets, so be sure to check all your plants carefully and, when in doubt, hang them well out of reach.
Introducing Your Kitten to the Rest of the Family
Introducing a new kitten to your home is relatively easy if you live alone. Introducing a kitten into a home with other pets or small children, however, can be an entirely different ball of wax.
Kittens should always be monitored when they are with small children, as it is very easy for them to get seriously injured if they are dropped or fallen upon. Larger pets may also harm your kitten, even if they only mean to play, so never leave the two unattended.
When introducing your kitten into a home with another pet, it’s always best to do it in an area that’s neutral, or that the other pet doesn’t spend as much time in. Speak quietly, keeping your voice low, calm and soothing, while you gently pet both of them, making sure to pay equal attention to both. This will help to control some jealousy issues, but you will still need to observe them together for some time, in order to make sure everything will be alright.
New Kitten Supplies – Necessities and Niceties
The Scoop on Cat Litter
The most basic necessity for your new cat or kitten is a good, solid litter box and a supply of cat litter. The type of litter box you purchase, as well as the brand of cat litter you choose is a personal decision, and one which will be influenced by the location in your home where kitty’s privy will be placed.
If your litter box will be somewhere out of site (and out of smelling distance), then a basic litter pan and a solid plastic litter scoop (if you loved digging in the sand as a child – you’re in for a big treat!) is all that you need. If you are challenged for space in your home or apartment, then you should consider a covered litter box with built in odor filter, such as a Boodah Box, or (if you really want to get fancy) cat litter box furniture – which will turn kitty’s bathroom into a lovely addition to your home decor!
Don’t like to scoop poop every day? Consider an automatic cat litter box. This marvel of modern industry features a built in rake system that runs through the litter after kitty does her business and deposits her deposits into a waste receptacle. Then it’s a snap to remove the nasty stuff for disposal.
Important Cat Litter Box Health Concerns
Whatever you choose in the way of a “loo” for kitty, remember to always thoroughly wash your hands with plenty of soap and very warm water after you perform your daily cleaning tasks.
Children really should not be given the job of cleaning the litter box (as well as pregnant or nursing moms) due to the risk of exposure to toxoplasma, and organism that causes Toxoplasmosis, a nasty illness that can cause flu-like symptoms or worse in older children and adults, and can cause serious brain damage to an unborn child.
Not all cats have this microorganism in their feces, but you should always err on the side of caution; wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.
(Did I mention that you should wash your hands?)
A little tidbit of disgusting information for dog owners…
Make sure you put your cat litter box in an area where your dog or puppy cannot gain access to it. A little known and awfully gross fact is that dogs find cat poop to be a delectable treat. I’ve yet to meet a dog or puppy that doesn’t love to supplement their diet with a fresh supply of “cat cookies”.
There’s nothing worse than “cat poop breath” on your dog – especially dogs that like to give your face a good lick when you arrive home after work. Baby gates make a great barrier (provided your dog is not a toy breed) – place it high enough for kitty to get under, but low enough to keep hungry hounds at bay. (Sorry, this truly was a disgusting piece of information – but, unfortunately, true!)
Finally, there are many types of cat litter on the market, ranging from cheap to rather expensive. There are cat litter formulas made from all kinds of substances, from silica to clay to compressed newspaper to wheat husks. Your preference for cat litter will likely depend on cost, convenience and your personal convictions as far as ecology are concerned.
Having been a cat owner all my life (well since I was 4..), I have found that the very best cat litter for me and my pampered pussycats is a dust-free, scoopable, clay-based litter with built-in odor control. I currently use Kitten Litter Scoop from Purina. A large bag will easily last a month (for 1 cat), since you only need to empty and replace the litter monthly.
In between, you just scoop out any lumps, and freshen up the litter by pouring in a small amount to replace what was removed. That is my preference, but you’ll want to try different things to ensure that you use what is best for you.
Cats are creatures of habit and very territorial, too. Make sure that once you decide on the location of your litter box, you keep it in the same place at all times. As well, once you decide on a brand of kitty litter, try to stick to that brand.
Most cats don’t like it when you change what they are used to. They may refuse to use the litter box (and opt for your pile of freshly washed clothes instead) if you suddenly switch brands on them. If you do switch over to a new brand, try to mix it with the old brand at first, until kitty gets used to it. (A word of caution – some scoopable brands don’t mix well with other types of litter (such as wheat, newspaper or non-scoopable brands).
Finally, just remember to keep your kitty’s litter box and the area around the litter box, clean and fresh. This will ensure a healthy, happy cat, and a clean and healthy environment for you and your family.
Feeding Your Kitten
Ideally, when you get your kitten, you should be given some of the food that he’s currently on, though this is not always the case. Never feel as if you’re putting someone out by asking for a week’s supply of premium kitten food or, at the very least, the brand name of cat food they are currently using. You can then mix the old food with the new and help to switch your kitten over to the food that you prefer over a gradual period of time, without causing him stomach upset.
Playing With Your New Kitten
As far as kitten toys go, these vary from kitten to kitten. Some enjoy laser pointers, while others enjoy scratching posts and catnip. It’s best to start with a couple of small toys and see which ones your pet seems to gravitate towards, rather than spending a lot of money on toys he’ll never play with. Cat treats are also nice, but most cats get along quite well without ever having them or wet cat meat.
Grooming Your Cat or Kitten
Cat grooming supplies are the final purchase that you need for your kitten. For short-haired cats, this simply means a soft bristled brush whereas, for a long-haired cat, you will need a brush and a comb. Cats also need toenail clippers and, even if you keep their nails trimmed, they will probably still try and scratch on the furniture. A small squirt gun filled with room-temperature water should help to control undesirable behavior.
Bringing a new kitten home is a rewarding and exciting experience. These helpful hints will be sure to start you and your new fur-ball off on the right foot, regardless of whether you choose a Siamese kitten, a Persian kitten, a Ragdoll kitten, or an adorable tabby cat from your local animal shelter. Be sure to scratch behind the ears and pet him every day, and you’re sure to have a friend who always greets you with a happy purr.