So You've Aquired a Kitten

by Teresa Camerino

Congratulations on your new baby! That little fluff ball of boundless energy will provide you years of enjoyment, loyalty and affection -- if you do your part of proper care and lots of love. Proper care does not mean expensive.

Introducing the kitten to your home: The first thing to remember is this is your kitten's first time away from the only home s/he has ever known. It is stressful to the kitten so give the baby time to adjust to you and your home before making friends. Show the kitten its litter box, food and water bowls immediately after getting it home. If possible, keep the kitten in one room for a day or two, and then allow it to gradually explore the rest of the house. If you have other pets, introduce them one at a time. It is common for a kitten, in a new situation, not to eat or use the box normally for a few days.

Shots: It is a good idea to take the kitten to your vet the same, or next, day after you get it to make sure s/he is fine and to introduce the kitten to your vet. You should have a medical record from whomever you got your kitten from so be sure to give this to your vet so s/he knows what shots the kitten has had. Depending on the age, the kitten should have had shots for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) -- a test is given to the kitten at nine weeks old and followed by the first shot and then a booster at twelve weeks -- respiratory infections and distemper (FVRCP) -- a series of three shots at six, nine and twelve weeks -- and, when old enough (at least four months), rabies. If you've purchased the kitten from a breeder, these shots should have been included in the price you paid for the kitten.

Please be aware of the "discount" breeders that will sell you a kitten at a low price and let you take it home early. This practice can result in vet expenses that end up two-to-three times the price of the kitten. Insist on a written health guarantee for parasites and infectious diseases. This guarantee should be for seven days, the normal incubation period for any type of upper respiratory or intestinal bugs.

Food: Feeding the kitten good quality food is not expensive. Even though you'll pay more for better quality cat food, such as Iams or Science Diet, in the long run you will save because you will feed less of a better quality food since it has more protein included. A better quality food will also produce less "waist products" so you'll use less litter. Keep a bowl of fresh water available at all times.

Litter: Another way to save is to use store brand litter -- UNSCENTED (the perfumes in the scented litter can cause allergic reactions). There is no need to fill the litter box half way full with litter. Using less litter, approximately 1/2" - 3/4", will not only be less expensive but will allow the urine to evaporate quickly (a common mistake is to put too much litter in the box which extends evaporation time). Do not use the "clumping" litter as kittens will ingest it - those clumps, that are so easy to remove from the litter box, will develop in the intestinal track.

Care: Before you allow the kitten to roam your house, check for dangers such as dangling electrical cords, loose rubber bands, open toilet seats, poisonous plants, accessible cleaning products and garbage, open dishwasher/dryer/ cabinets/washing machine, and other appliances. Do not allow your kitten to go outdoors (unless in a screened in area). The life expectancy for an outdoor cat is greatly reduced due to cars, poisonous lizards, mistreatment, and fights with other animals.

Declawing: Not only is declawing a mutilation (amputation at the first knuckle) but leaves the kitten with no defense. Declawed kittens/cats will often resort to biting since it is their only defense. You can train your kitten not to claw your furniture by providing scratching posts (when you see the baby scratch on furniture, take the kitten to its scratching post and show it how to use the post). A quick spray from a squirt bottle will work also.

Play: Kittens are very playful very early in the morning and again in the evening. Have several types of toys available for your kitten -- balls, "teasers" (feathered sticks), and catnip toys. Discourage rough play such as biting your fingers as this teaches the kitten that biting is appropriate behavior. Don't allow children, friends, or other pets to mishandle the baby -- it will ensure an unsatisfactory pet.

If you remember that your kitten is a sensitive, caring creature and are willing to provide it with your patience, attention and love, you will have a loyal friend for many years.

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