Kittens are cute and a lot of fun, but owning one is a huge commitment for anywhere up to 15-20 years. Due to their playful nature, they can be destructive at times, so if you’re particularly house proud, an older cat may be a wiser decision. Kittens don’t stay little for long, but here are a few things to consider before getting a kitten.
Health & insurance
Register your kitten with a vet and arrange for an initial check-up as soon as possible. They will start your kitten’s vaccination schedule. Pet insurance is a good idea, as vets bills can soon mount up for long conditions and any emergencies can be very costly. Shop around for the best deal, but always read the small print and look out for your excess amount.
Microchipping & neutering
Microchipping is the best way of being reunited with your cat if they become lost. It’s safe, inexpensive and should be done before they are let outside for the first time. Neutering is advised for all kittens unless you intend to breed from them, and can be carried out at four months. It is the best way to stop unwanted pregnancies and can reduce unwanted behaviour such as aggression, spraying and straying.
Kittens need fresh water and a complete food that is specifically tailored to their needs. Webbox has a number of kitten specific food products, specially tailored to give your little puss everything they need as they step out into the big, wide world. As they grow older, ensure they are weighed regularly to ensure they are not becoming overweight.
Kitten proofing your home
Your home is fascinating to an inquisitive kitten, but it’s also potentially dangerous. Kittens need a safe spot to hide, but ensure that gaps in the kitchen are blocked off. Keep windows, toilets, washing machines, cupboards all closed for safety and screen off any fires. Make sure any cables are safely out of chewing range and any hazardous chemicals or poisons are not within reach.
The first days
The first hours and days are very important. A change in environment is stressful, so be patient and take things slowly. Have his dedicated area prepared in advance with food, water, bed and litter tray and if possible, something with a familiar smell.
Don’t leave your kitten alone until it is settled, but let him have a look around. Gently show him his food and tray. He may take time to adjust, but give him lots of opportunity to play and sleep and he’ll hopefully soon get settled.
Kittens learn very quickly – they usually know what to do when shown their tray. It should be positioned in a secluded corner away from their food and water.
Integration and socialisation
Socialising your kitten is a vital part of being a happy, well-adjusted cat. This involves being exposed to lots of different positive experiences as soon as possible, such as meeting people of all ages, being gently handled and hearing lots of noises, so that they learn to enjoy them instead of being scared. Just remember to take things slowly and let them explore the new experiences at their own pace. Your patience will be rewarded with a happy, well-rounded cat later on.
Introducing kittens to older cats, children and dogs is a positive step, but should be done slowly and with caution. Children should be told to treat the kitten gently and with kindness, to leave it alone in certain situations and that some actions like shouting or sudden movements can scare kittens. There is no guarantee that older cats will accept a new kitten, but it can be helped by providing separate food, water and toilet facilities. Take things gradually and don’t force things.
The outside world
It’s only natural that your kitten wants to explore the fascinating world outside. It provides stimulation and the chance to express natural behaviour.
You should always wait until you kitten considers your home their ‘home’ – several weeks at the very least – before considering letting them out. They should also be fully vaccinated and ideally neutered, as cats reach sexual maturity at four months of age. Microchipping is also strongly advised, as these first forays into the big, wide world are when kittens are most likely to get lost.
Wait until it is quiet and just before a mealtime, so he is more likely to come back for food. You go outside first and beckon him out – wait for you kitten to follow. When he does, keep initial visits outside short and ensure that you keep you kitten indoors at night. Over time, you can gradually increase the amount of unsupervised time they spend outside until they are acclimatised and comfortable in their new surroundings.
Only then consider should you consider a cat flap. Cats learn pretty quickly how to use it, but can be helped by placing food on the other side and holding the flap open until they pass through. When they are comfortable, gradually lower the flap so that they are required to push it slightly to pass. Continue until they are able to push the flap open completely.