If you recently adopted a new kitten, starting them off right can help prevent behavioral problems from developing down the road, and keep them healthy and happy. Our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Just Cats Clinic wants to help by offering tips to set your kitten up for success.
#1: Plan for veterinary costs for your kitten
Kittens may be small, but they can be expensive. Planning to cover your kitten’s veterinary bills from the beginning will help ensure you meet their routine wellness needs. Getting pet insurance when your kitten is young is the best way to ensure no pre-existing conditions are exempted from their coverage. Pet insurance has multiple benefits:
- Saves money — A good insurance policy on your kitten can save you money if they experience a veterinary emergency, or develop a condition that requires ongoing medical care.
- Results in improved care — Insurance allows you to provide diagnostics and treatments for your kitten that you may not be able to afford without coverage.
- Provides peace of mind — A pet insurance policy provides peace of mind, knowing you won’t have to make a decision based on finances if your kitten is sick or injured.
#2: Socialize your kitten
Kittens should be exposed to many different experiences to help build their confidence, make them feel secure, and help them learn to tolerate veterinary care and routine grooming. Situations to practice include:
- Carrier training — Get your kitten used to traveling in a carrier, so if an emergency occurs and they need to be transported, they won’t be stressed or afraid. Start by leaving the carrier open on the floor and letting your kitten investigate the new object. Feed your kitten in the carrier to help them make positive associations. Once your kitten seems comfortable in the carrier, close the carrier and stay nearby to monitor their reaction. If they seem comfortable, pick the carrier up and walk around with them inside.
- Car rides — Once your kitten has acclimated to the carrier, take them on short car rides, to get them used to riding in a car.
- Handling — Handle your kitten all over to help them get used to being touched, so grooming and veterinary care won’t be a struggle. Teeth brushing and nail trims are specific areas that can be problematic for cat owners.
- Teeth brushing — First, get your kitten used to their mouth being handled. Gently put your fingers in their mouth, running your finger over their gums and teeth. You can then introduce an appropriate sized, soft bristled toothbrush that you gently rub over their teeth. Once they accept this action, you can place a small amount of pet-specific toothpaste on the brush, and let them sniff and lick the substance before proceeding to brush their teeth.
- Nail trimming — Gently hold your kitten’s paw and expose their nail. Give them a treat when they allow you to do this without pulling their paw away. Do this on a regular basis, until they readily accept you handling their paw.
- Different foods — Provide canned and dry food, to ensure your kitten gets used to all textures, in case their diet needs to be changed to a particular food.
- Treats — Teach your kitten to take treats designed to hold pills, in case you need to medicate them in the future.
#3: Ensure your kitten’s litter box is acceptable
Kittens learn how to use a litter box quickly, but they can also be particular about their litter box setup. Ensure they accept their litter box, to avoid mishaps.
- Keep the box clean — Cats like their litter box cleaned frequently. Scoop the box at least once a day, and change out the litter and wash the box at least once a week.
- Have enough boxes — Cats don’t like to share their litter box. You should have one box for every cat in your home, plus one extra.
- Put the box in a proper location — Cats like privacy to do their business. Put their box in a low traffic, quiet area in your home.
- Use the right litter — Most cats prefer unscented, clumping litter.
#4: Provide environmental enrichment for your kitten
Kittens need their environment to provide certain factors, to ensure they remain happy and stress free.
- Scratching posts — Cats need to scratch, and if they don’t have scratching posts, they may choose to shred your furniture or curtains. Ensure you have numerous scratching posts with different textures, so they can choose the type they prefer. Also, provide vertical and horizontal scratching posts.
- Resting area — Cats prefer to rest in areas where they feel safe and secure, and small boxes open on one side are perfect locations. Avoid invading your kitten’s space when they are resting to respect their privacy, and ensure they don’t feel threatened.
- Perches — Cats like to climb and view their surroundings from an elevated position. Provide at least one perch for every cat in your home.
- Toys — Having toys to stalk and pounce will entertain your kitten, and keep them healthy and active. Try different toys to see what prey your kitten prefers to hunt.
- Play time — Once you’ve determined your kitten’s preferred prey type, play with them at least 15 minutes twice a day, to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
Following these tips will help ensure your kitten starts off right, so they can become happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adult cats. If you would like to schedule a wellness exam for your kitten, contact our Cat Friendly team at Just Cats Clinic to schedule an appointment.