Kittens are so cute, but so are older cats. Many people prefer cats to dogs, saying they are easier pets than dogs, but many people getting a cat for the first time don’t realize they are inquisitive and active. Cats require a lot of commitment and care.
Here are some things you need to know before deciding on getting a cat.
What to expect from a cat?
Kittens are very different from adult cats because they have unlimited energy and curiosity. This means they require far more time from you before they reach cat adulthood.
Generally, cats love affection and playtime and are both important for socializing them properly as kittens. When young, cats need plenty of supervision to keep them out of trouble, so they are exhausting.
Cats have an average lifespan of between 13 and 17 years, but many cats exceed this and live to over 20 years of age.
The kitten stage passes very quickly, so enjoy it. This is the time to create that special bond that will last its entire life.
Choosing a kitten
- A kitten should be at least 8 weeks old and should preferably still be with its mom when you get it.
- If you are adopting a cat or kitten from a shelter, find out as much as you can from the staff. If the kitten was hand-reared, it may have behavioral issues and lack confidence.
- Kittens born in a home environment rather than outdoors, adapt easier.
- Socialization from a young age is vital for a kitten’s development.
- Make sure the kitten and its mum are both healthy.
- If buying from a breeder, they must provide a health certificate, but adopting is always better.
- Learn about the different cat breeds.
- If you have your heart set on a pedigree kitten, do some research and be aware of inherited problems. The kitten and its parents must be registered with the official body for their pedigree and be vaccinated.
Things to consider before choosing your cat
Can you provide the right environment for a cat? Cats need to be in a safe environment, and preferably indoors. Cats will jump from balconies and can get injured, sometimes fatally, so you need to protect them.
Does a cat fit into your lifestyle? Cats are not as demanding as dogs and don’t need to exercise outdoors. However, they need attention and socializing.
Can you meet the needs of a cat?
- Care for its health
- Provide companionship
- Make sure it behaves
- Lives in a good environment
- Feed it a healthy diet
Should you choose a kitten or an adult cat? Kittens are both rewarding and demanding. Adult cats are more independent and mature.
What about food?
Kittens should remain with their mother until they are at least eight weeks old and fully weaned. This is the age they are also able to regulate their body temperature.
In situations where you are caring for a kitten younger than eight weeks, you need to keep it warm and must bottle-feed with special kitten formula. Baby kittens need food every 2 hours.
If you are taking home a weaned kitten, it is ready to eat solid food. Find out what the kitten was eating and if you decide to change its food, do it gradually. Slowly change from one brand to the other by gradually increasing the amount of the new feed into the old one. This is to prevent any digestive problems.
Always make sure to feed your cat good quality food for each stage of its development. Kittens grow fast and need specially formulated food rich in calories and proteins. This assists their growth and is easier for your kitten to digest. Always feed the kitten at regular times and make sure to always leave a bowl of clean water next to its food.
Feeding guide for cats:
- Until 6 months: A kitten needs to eat 3 to four times per day because of its rapid development. At this stage, the best is to leave a bowl of cat kibble and to let the kitten eat freely throughout the day.
- Between 6 and nine months: At this stage, your kitten is entering adolescence and its growth slows. It needs fewer calories and must eat twice a day.
- Between 9 and twelve months: By the time your cat reaches twelve months, it has reached adulthood. From nine months, start transitioning to adult food. From here on, you need to make sure it’s not overfed, otherwise, your cat may become overweight.
Contrary to popular belief, cats must not drink milk or cream because they can’t digest these properly and they can cause diarrhea. Other foods that can harm your cat include raw meat, avocados, grapes, and anything with yeast. Find out about other foods your cat shouldn’t eat.
Training a kitten
Training your kitten to use its litter box is the first training task to undertake. Kittens learn this by watching their mothers. When you bring a fully weaned kitten home, you will just have to show it where the litter box is and keep showing it, until it doesn’t require prompting anymore.
Establishing and reinforcing boundaries is also part of its training, allowing your kitten to adapt to your household rules. Kittens are actually very smart, and with patience, can be trained to do many things.
Always apply positive reinforcement for all training with treats and praise. Never speak harshly, hit, or shake a cat or kitten to punish it. If your cat behaves badly ignore it or redirect its attention elsewhere, and always praise good behavior. If everything else fails, confine your cat to its quiet area for a while.
Socializing a kitten
Kittens usually have a curious nature and are quite fearless. However, they need socializing if they are to grow into well-balanced adult cats. Playing with a kitten and offering comfort is part of its socializing, but also take the time to introduce it to new smells, sounds, and other sensory requirements.
Cats must learn to wear a collar, ride in a car, pet carrier, and be groomed from a young age. Sometimes all these new activities can cause your over stimulation or frighten your kitten, offer it lots of comfort and reassurance.
Exercise and Play
Besides socializing and training, cats need exercise. Playing is the best exercise because it helps keep your cat healthy allows you to bond. The more a kitten plays, the better it sleeps. Games cats like to play include chasing a light beam across the room and chasing a toy mouse on a string.
Cat’s and their sleeping habits
Kittens need between 16 and 20 hours of sleep daily. They need to feel safe, warm, and cozy. Make sure to provide yours with a comfortable bed to snuggle in. Kittens may wake up and meow during the night. Don’t be tempted to get up, otherwise, they will expect it. Ignore them, and they soon learn nighttime is sleep time.
Your cat’s health
Whether you get a kitten or adult cat, you should take it for a health check to your veterinarian within the first few days. The vet will check for parasites, feline leukemia, and any other health issues, and administer any vaccinations your cat hasn’t had yet
This is the time to find out when booster shots are needed and to schedule them. Your vet will also advise you on a flea and parasite control regimen.
Cats breed three times a year, and overpopulation is a serious problem leading to neglect and a growing number of cats end up in animal shelters. Discuss spaying or neutering your cat with your vet. The pros are that your cat will live a longer, healthier life. Also, female cats are prone to breast cancer and a uterus infection known as pyometra if not spayed.
How to cat-proof your home?
Kittens are like babies, but even when fully grown, cats are very curious, loving to play and explore. When you decide to bring a cat home, you need to make sure your home is a safe environment for them. Remember that cats can climb everywhere so prepare your home accordingly.
- All dangerous objects like hair elastics, string, window blind cords, and power chords must be in drawers because they pose a choking and strangling hazard.
- Close vents, dangerous areas, and place screens on your windows. Cats face many dangers outdoors.
- Move sensitive electronic equipment out of reach.
- Some plants, like lilies, cyclamen, azaleas, etc., are toxic to cats.
- Store all household cleaners and chemicals in cupboards.
- Get a comfortable bed and place it in a quiet, safe area.
- Some good toys will keep your cat entertained during its most active hours.
- Scratching is a natural behavior in cats, so provide a scratching post to prevent it from scratching your precious furniture.
- Have a litter tray ready for your cat’s arrival.
- Buy good quality food.
- Get bowls for food and water, and place them away from the litter box.
- Cats cannot be transported easily in cars because they move all over. Buy a comfortable cat carrier to transport your new cat home, for traveling, and going to the veterinarian.
- Other things you can get for your new kitten are ID tags, a self-opening collar, cat brush, toothpaste, and toothbrush.
- Finally, make sure the family, especially the kids and other pets, are ready for the new arrival. Kittens are fragile and can feel overwhelmed. Explain the need to be gentle and establish rules for interaction and feeding times.
- Prepare an area where your new kitten will feel safe until it adjusts to the rest of the family. Only introduce your kitten to your other pets after it has been to the veterinarian for its shots and it has been given a clean bill of health.
We all know that cats groom themselves, but they do need regular grooming too. Cats with longer fur need weekly brushing to prevent problems with hairballs. Cats must have regular nail clipping (about once every three weeks). Never have your cat declawed; this is a very painful procedure that amputates the end of its claws.
Cats scratch their nails because they shed the outer nail, revealing the new nail underneath, and that’s why a tall scratching post is necessary. Sprinkling it with catnip a few times a month keeps your cat interested in it.
Only clean your cat’s outer ears gently, and never clean the ear canal because it can lead to trauma. Tooth brushing is a difficult task with cats, but it’s important to prevent any mouth diseases and gingivitis.
Your cat keeps itself clean, but you may need to bathe it once in a while. Use a hand-held shower spray, lukewarm water, and gentle cat shampoo.
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