It’s hard to resist kittens, those tiny little furballs that fit in your hand and like to snuggle up to your neck. They’re adorable, generally quite loving and cuddly, don’t take up a lot of space, and have only a small percentage of the boundless energy that a puppy does. That being said, raising a kitten does take a bit of work, so we want to help make your job a little easier by providing you with some of the most important tips you need to know how to raise a kitten.
From feeding to grooming, socialization to potty training, we’ve got all the basics covered on how to raise a kitten. Let’s take a look…
10 Tips for Raising a Kitten
Here are our top 10 tips for raising a kitten, conveniently listed in alphabetical order:
Provide a high-quality cat food with the appropriate nutrient profile for your kitten’s age, size, and activity level. The food should be high in protein, easily digestible, and energy dense. This can be dry, wet, or a combination of the two, but make sure that the food is specifically for kittens. Until they are 4 months of age, they will need to be fed 3-4 times per day to accommodate growth. Then you can taper down to twice a day.
It’s best to start brushing your kitten while young. It will help them get used to the sensation, and it will make them feel cleaner. It will also reduce hairballs that you have to clean up and minimize cat dander, which many are allergic to.
Alo part of grooming are a cat’s nails. They typically need to be trimmed once a month. Many cats don’t like the procedure, so it’s important to begin training your kitten from an early age to have their paws handled and groomed. While young, just use a file to shorten the soft nails. As the nails harden, invest in cat claw clippers. Make sure you just take a little off the top and avoid the quick, which can cause bleeding and pain.
We do not recommend declawing, however if you need additional safeguards for your furniture against excessive scratching and tearing while training your kitten, you can use Soft Claws. This is a covering that is glued onto the nail to prevent clawing damage. Claws can still be retracted, they are harmless, and they fall off over time. If you are so inclined, they also come in colors.
Even if your cat will not be outside roaming the yard and neighborhood, there is always the likelihood that they will take advantage of an open door or window and escape. At minimum, your kitten should have a collar with a tag on it containing your contact information. Breakaway collars are typically preferred over traditional collars. They have a special multi-directional breakaway clip that releases the collar should the cat become entangled or stuck on something, like a chain link fence. These are available at almost every pet store.
It’s also wise to have a microchip inserted under their skin to make recovery easier. Microchipping is a quick and almost painless procedure that injects a microchip between their shoulder blades using a needle, much like a vaccination. You can microchip your pet at your local vet, Banfield Pet Hospitals in PetSmart retailers, and some animal shelters. Make sure that you register the chip as soon as it is implanted.
Note: The Central California SPCA holds a two-week Microchip Madness event each year. During this time, the cost for microchipping is $6! (In 2018, this event is being held from June 25 to July 8.)
#4 Potty Training
Unlike puppies, cats take to litter box training more innately. Make sure that a litter box (or two) is readily available around the house and that your kitten knows where it is. While they are young, place them in the litter box after eating or vigorous play so that they get the hang of it. And make sure that you keep the box clean, scooping regularly, or they will find other places to let nature call.
#5 Kitten-Proofing Your Home
Kittens are naturally curious, so it’s wise to kitten-proof your home so that they don’t hurt themselves or do damage to the house.
- Indoor Plants: Cats do love to chew on greenery, but some can be poisonous or otherwise hazardous to their health. Make sure all indoor plants are safe for cats and keep them up and away from kitten’s teeth and claws to ensure that they don’t become eaten.
- Cords: A kitten playing with or chewing on electrical, phone, computer, or cable cords can not only give them a shock, but destroy the cord in the process. Try to keep them off the floor or dangling off surfaces. You can easily hide cords in plastic channels made for this purpose, wrap them in special sleeves, or use other types of concealing devices. If you have blinds with long cords, wrap them around a cord holder on the wall or loop them over the blinds to keep them out of reach.
- Cleaning supplies: Smells from cleaning supplies can attract cats, and while they might not be open, your kitten can lick the outside of bottles and cans, and even the smallest amount can be harmful. Make sure all cleaning supplies and any other type of poisonous product (i.e. medicine) are inside cabinets and out of harm’s way.
- Toilet: Keep the lid on your toilets closed while your cat is young. There is the possibility that they will fall in and be too small and wet to be able to get out, leading to drowning.
- Screens: Check all window screens and screen doors for punctures, rips, or holes that may enable an escape. Even a small hole can be made bigger by little claws. Repairing or replacing screens is not difficult and there is an abundance of how-to guides on the internet to help you do so if the need arises.
In order to raise a happy, well-adjusted cat, you will need to take the time to socialize them. They need to be introduced to people other than yourself and to the world at large. That means getting them used to big scary vacuums, the clanging of dishes in the kitchen, doorbells, and loud music. Take the time to play with and pet/cuddle your kitten on a daily basis; have friends and family do the same when they can. If you don’t want them to be a 100% indoor cat, take them outside to get them used to the smells and the dirt on their feet. This should be done with a leash or in their carrier at first. Basically, introduce them to real life.
Prevent overpopulation, unwanted pregnancies, testicular cancer and mammary gland and reproductive tumors in your kitten by having them spayed or neutered. Spay and neutering procedures are done under anesthesia and take very little time (15-20 minutes). The procedure can be done as early as eight weeks, but should be done prior to your cat reaching six months of age.
You will find that your kitten has some seriously sharp baby teeth (also referred to as baby teeth or milk teeth). These come in between 2 and 6 weeks and will begin falling out at around 3 months of age. While your kitten is teething, their mouth might be quite sensitive, making it hard to eat dry food or to play with toys. Permanent teeth start coming in shortly thereafter and may take a few months. Because both tooth and gum-related diseases are common in cats and can lead to more serious complications, you’ll need to check their teeth regularly and consult a vet if you notice swelling, bleeding, loss of teeth or if your cat has trouble eating/chewing food.
#9 Veterinarian Visits/Vaccinations
Once you get your kitten, schedule a vet checkup. You’ll want an overall evaluation, to check for fleas, and tests for parasites and heartworm. After that, your kitten will need regular checkups, just like you do. During the first year, this means multiple visits for a series of vaccinations. Typically kittens are vaccinated every 3-4 weeks, starting as early as 6 weeks. Once they reach about 4 months, the series of vaccinations end. Vaccinations usually include rabies, RVRCP (a combination vaccine), and feline leukemia. There are several other non-essential vaccines that you can opt for based on your vet’s recommendation. Once your kitten reaches adulthood, they need an annual checkup where they will need to get both a rabies and FVRCP vaccine.
Fluids are essential to all mammals, and cats are no different. Make sure that fresh water is always available and change it at least once per day.
We hope that these tips on how to raise a kitten have been helpful for you. We also want to remind you that your local shelter usually has kittens and cats available for adoption to a good home should you be ready to get your own little furball.